We've turned the corner. How many corners is this? How many seas is this?
At 7:00am, twelve hours into our passage, Bonnie, all alone on watch, turned the corner, rounded the heel of Italy's boot and entered the Adriatic sea. I was asleep below, off watch. We timed the arrival to round this cape (Capo S. Maria di Luca) in early morning when we hoped the seas would be friendly. I woke up an hour later and when I came up top........
The sea is a deep blue, almost like home, and calm. The air is cool. The wind is on the nose and running from 3 to 10 knots. There is a current out of the North of about 1 knot. There is no traffic; we are all alone. The bright blue sky is full of contrails from every direction and there is even an asterisk in the sky where 5 contrails have crossed all on one point. What's that all about? Albania has always been a bit mysterious to me and for the first time, there it is off the starboard bow, huge mountains shrouded in mist, declaring itself, still mysterious.
Ashore, to port, the Italian coast is rocky and has steep cliffs pockmarked with caves. The hillside, covered in scrub, rises a few hundred feet to what almost appears to be a plain at the top.There are little white villages along the shore every few miles and some nestled in small valleys near the top. Those round Genovese forts similar to our Martello Tower appear again. It's been a while since we have seen signs of the Genovese.
Capo Otranto is dead ahead and after we round it the town should appear nestled in a small harbour on the port side. This will be our first landfall on this coast. There is always a little trepidation as we approach a new port. Will there be room to anchor? Hopefully it is sand or mud. How sheltered is it really? How crowded will it be? Might there be room at the dock to go alongside or med moor? How tight will it be? How easy will it be to depart if we opt to tie up? Will there be lazy lines at the dock or will we have to drop our stern anchor as we pull in? ( I hate that part). Are the Port Police going to be friendly and helpful or will they feel like we are intruding and act accordingly? If all goes to hell in a handbasket, what is the back up plan? All of these things run through my mind in rapid fire sequence and keep repeating themselves like a movie in an endless loop.
I have tried to do my research in advance, of course, but there is only so much information in the pilot. Google maps are a great help and so are these new on-line pilot sites where individuals, like us, enter our knowledge of particular ports. Still, my mind is always whirring with these questions........ as we approach. Six miles to go on the chartplotter so I'll find out many of these answers in a little over an hour.
The flat sea is full of white caps as we round Capo Otranto. Our timing is good, with only three miles to go. The waves will start building soon with this breeze.
Otranto was a delight, with its castle and grand cathedral whose ancient floor is covered in an incredible mosaic of the tree of life. There was no room at the town dock, such as it was, but the holding was great in hard packed sand and there was no need to dive on the anchor and check it because the water was crystal clear and I could see the anchor clearly from the bow.
All worked out well for Otranto. Not as well for Brindisi two days later. All the same trepidations and this time there was no place to tie up (the Brindisi-Corfu regatta had taken all the spaces) and no place to anchor, at least close to town. So we opted for Marina di Brindisi, which is in the outer reaches of the harbour and a 20-30 minute bus ride from downtown. A bit of a disappointment but at 29 euros a night , not too bad and hey, there is unlimited potable water included! We're washing everything in sight to prepare for Wally and Martha's visit as well as Fred and Nancy's arrival on Frisco. Ciao, ciao, ciao!
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
It's unusual for a boatyard to finish a job more quickly than they've predicted, but that's exactly what happened in Pozzallo. With the forecast looking ominous for the following week, we decide to sail the boat to Marina di Ragusa on Saturday afternoon, while Katherine and Leah spend the day exploring Modica. It is disappointing that we can't go with them, but at least we'd already had a glimpse of Modica the previous week.
Like Ragusa and Noto, Modica was reconstructed in flamboyant baroque style after the 1693 earthquake, and is a World Heritage site. But Modica is perhaps best known for its chocolate. The methods used to prepare Modica chocolate date back to the 16th century, when Sicily was under Spanish rule and the conquistadors brought back chocolate, and the methods of preparing it, from the New World. Prepared using very low heat, the chocolate is grainy and crunchy and strong. It is an acquired taste, but the pepper-flavoured variety is a taste explosion! When Katherine and Leah return to the apartment in late afternoon, they are laden with bags filled with several flavours, but best of all they have brought back some "cannoli siciliani" from the Antico Dulceria Bonajuto. I have to admit I've become a bit obsessed with finding the best cannoli in Sicily, if for no other reason than that it gives me an excuse to eat it at every opportunity. I had despaired of ever again tasting cannoli as good as the ones we'd eaten in Erice with Roy and Joanne, but Bonajuto's is definitely a contender! Creamy, sweet ricotta wrapped inside a flaky crusty wrapping... (Joanne, are you ready for another trip to Sicily?)
The pre-dinner snack does not spoil our appetites. That evening, we dress up and walk down to the other end of Pozzallo for dinner at the restaurant "Il Tonno Rosso", which had been highly recommended by our landlord Saro (of Casa Sicule). The seafood antipasti platters are a gourmet delight, but the "piece de resistance" (if there an equivalent Italian term I do not know it) is the fish baked in salt that Rick and I share. It is served with a flourish and consumed with enthusiasm; the flavor delicate and not at all salty.
As we walk home along the main street of Pozzallo, the entire town seems to be out walking in the "passeggiata" ritual that is so common here. On Saturday evenings, the full length of the main street is pedestrianized, and old and young walk arm in arm, dressed in their finest, greeting friends and neighbours. Joining the crowds, we have the feeling of being in the midst of a large street party.
There is no need to debate what we will do the following day. Our calendars had been marked for weeks, thanks to Katherine's careful research. "May 20th, Noto Flower Festival! " (Infiorata) . When Maria drove us back from Marina di Ragusa, she had warned us that wind was forecast for the afternoon, which could damage the displays, so for once we are ready early. Arriving at the car, we find a parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper. Darn! It takes us a while to figure out that the pedestrianization of the street on Saturday night must have an associated parking ban. The carbon copy is very faint. I squint, trying to decipher the figures. Is that 39 euros or 239 euros? Surely it is not 239 euros? "I refuse to worry about it" said Rick, "Let's just get going". All the way to Noto, Katherine and I take turns trying to decipher it. Finally, we decide to forget about it. "Maybe it's just a warning", I say hopefully.
We've already described Noto in a previous posting, but today this lovely baroque town is decked out in full regalia, the entire length of Via Nicolaci filled with flower displays that are, quite literally, works of art. Created with flower petals, seeds, peppercorns, grasses and other natural materials, the "paintings" represent various religious and cultural themes.
The crowds filing along the edges are surprisingly orderly, but Katherine and I quickly lose sight of Rick and Leah. Rick calls to us from a palazzo balcony above the street, and Katherine and I follow, paying 4 euros each to see the Palazzo Villadorata and the view of the street below.
Reconnecting with Leah on the street, we join the crowds to watch a procession....
...... then decide that it is time for a gelato break. We are certainly in the right place, since our Lonely Planet makes the bold claim that the best gelato in the world can be found in Noto. Rick buys a preliminary taster at a random shop on the main street. Not bad! But Katherine leads us to one of the two recommended shops, the Caffe Sicilia. Miraculously, we find a seat inside, which also means we can use the toilet (sweet relief!). Leah insists on treating us. The flavours are unusual...basil (delicious!) mandola (almond, my personal favourite) Montezuma (dark chocolate and orange). While we are there, the "maestro" (the creator of all these delicious concoctions) appears and horses around with his friends is typical Sicilian style.
It's not difficult to accept that this is the best gelato in the world, but Katherine is not willing to take it on faith. "We have to go to the other place" she says firmly. Leah is incredulous; surely we are not planning to eat more gelato? Let's do a bit more exploring first.
We tour the Teatro Vittorio Emanuale, where a guide is providing a tour to a couple of rather demanding English-speaking tourists, who can't understand why she will not open the curtain and let them see the stage. "A performers' group is meeting" she tells them, "It would disrupt the artistic process". She tells us that the theatre was built in 1842 and modeled on La Scala (although on a much smaller scale). It was named for the first king of the new united Italy, but there is a proposal to remove the name of Vittorio Emanuele ("He never came here") and rename it for a famous Noto actress, Tina Lorenzo. Since there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of streets and landmarks in Italy that bear the name of Vittorio Emanuele, one less probably will not matter. (In fact, the main street of Noto also bears his name.)
The guide recommends that we also visit the "Hall of Mirrors" in the municipal building (Palazzo Ducezio) . We have already turned down the opportunity to purchase a reduced-price combined entry ticket, but decide to go anyway. The Hall of Mirrors is a palatial, oval-shaped room with, you guessed it, a lot of mirrors on the walls. The main attraction is not the mirrors, but the trompe l'oeil ceiling, which gives the illusion of being decorated with three-dimensional frescoes. As we leave the palazzo, we look over the shoulders of some Italian patriots and get a great view of the cathedral across the street.
That's us on the staircase behind the guys in the costumes.
The girls don't feel particularly compelled to go inside the cathedral, having toured one too many Italian churches in the past week. In any case, Rick and I already know that its interior is simple, perhaps because it has recently undergone restoration following the collapse of its dome in 1996. Apparently, an earthquake had caused structural damage in 1990. The moral of the story: think twice before entering run-down churches in earthquake zones!
Now, what about that other gelato? Just a small copetta....we find our way to the counter at Corrado Costanzo. Fragoli (strawberry)and limone (lemon) are delicious, but the winner is the ricotta, positively heavenly. Maybe this is the best gelato in the world! Even Leah has a taste. Rick goes back for one more, but he only gets to eat about half of it, since we all dive in with our own spoons.
A small enoteca seems like a promising place for lunch, but it is expensive and we all have tummies full of gelato. We browse the shelves of the shop, where the selection of wines is extensive. Rick has to duck his head entering the cellar, Leah, not so much!
I flip through a book, all in Italian, with a title that seems to say something like "101 wines to try before you die, without going bankrupt in the process". All the suggested wines are from Italy (which will come as no surprise to my friend Kathy and her sister Susan, but really, what would you expect from a book written in Italian?). I scan the section on Sicily, and observe that all but one of the suggested wines are from the Etna region. Later, I regret not buying the book.
We get on the road and drive through Avola, the home of Nero d'Avola wine and also famous for its almond orchards. We are hoping to find a winery, or perhaps a restaurant, but it is mid-afternoon on a Sunday and the town is almost deserted. Time for a break. We return to our apartment in Pozzallo and snack on bread, prosciutto, cheese and tomatoes.
The question of the parking ticket is still unanswered. Rick convinces me to go out on the main street and talk to a policeman. "People are always nicer to women" he says, which any woman will tell you is not true, but I agree to give it a try. Eventually, I find a policewoman on the street, show her the ticket, and tell her that I don't understand. She confirms that it is for parking in a "zona pedonale" , that we owe 39 euros, and that I can pay it at the police station "domani matina" (tomorrow morning). What a relief! I smile broadly and thank her profusely. She looks a bit puzzled- why would someone seem so delighted to be told they owe 39 euros? But in my mind, I am 200 euros richer. Now we can go out and have pizza for dinner!
We have delicious pizzas at the Pizzeria Cabrera (also recommended by Saro). For about 10 euros each we have a good local wine, and more pizza than we can ever dream of eating. We take away a large box of the leftovers when we leave.
The next day, Katherine and Leah catch the bus to Siracusa for the night. Rick and I pack up the apartment, pay our parking ticket (another linguistic adventure!) and drive back to Marina di Ragusa, where we prepare Aisling for guests. Next up, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento!
06/05/2012, Crotone, Italy
They say time heals all things. But that does not seem to count for boats. It doesn't matter if your boat is 25 years old or almost brand new. If you leave your boat idle for a few months and do not use the systems, some things that were working perfectly before you left will have stopped working when you return. Bonnie and I have returned to our families and work each winter since we left Nova Scotia in '07 and as a result system problems have frequently been an issue when we return. This year, it was the refrigeration. It was working like a charm when we shut it down last October. When we got back to the boat in April, it started up OK, but then stopped. Sometimes it would run for two or three hours, but sometimes it would only run for a minute. I checked the manual, the water pump, and emailed the supplier, all to no avail.
Our friends in the marina told us that Paulo was the man to call. Paulo is an interesting guy, I like him. He is Italian, of course and has a very limited knowledge of English. Later he told us that he is fluent in French and loves languages, but has great difficulty with English. We got by though, through a combination of English, French, Italian and sign language. On a side note I am quite proud of the fact that I am almost fluent in sign language (my own version of course).
After a few calls Paulo finally came and then came again and again and yet again. An intermittent problem is not easy to solve. To his credit he continued eliminating potential problems through his troubleshooting methodology. Finally after a consult with an associate he decided to change the dryer filter and the refrigerant, after vacuuming out the old cocktail of refrigerants I had been using. When you are on the move like us from country to country you don't get much choice in refrigerants. The result of the vacuuming and new refrigerant was amazing. Not only did the freezer start working but it is getting colder faster and holding its cold longer. We are now only running the system for about 60-90 minutes per day whereas the last number of years it was 180 minutes per day. I can now highly recommend R415B refrigerant for any of you that have old systems that were designed to be run on the now illegal R12. Thank you Paulo.
Over the years, other systems that have stopped or had problems upon our arrival have been the windlass, the wind generator, the engine, the toilet and the outboard. Now that I think about it, the refrigeration has been on the list more than the others over the years, including last year!
It seems to me that keeping these systems working is a great reason to keep on cruising and not stop. I know, I know, as Bonnie keeps reminding me the same issues apply to families and friends; if you don't keep in contact problems may develop there as well. It's probably a right brain, left brain thing. It's a tough old world and attention and balance are required to keep all our "systems" working smoothly.
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
The sad reality is that during periods when we're doing the most interesting things, we have no time to write about them. Since our last posting, we've attended the Noto flower festival (where we tasted the best gelato in the world) and explored the "Valley of the Temples" in Agrigento. Katherine and Leah took trips to Modica, Siracusa and Palermo, and Leah flew home from Palermo. We've visited Caltegirone, where we traipsed through dozens of ceramics shops. We've sampled Sicilian wine, Modica chocolate and cannoli at every opportunity. We returned to Syracuse for a fabulous lunch and yet another visit to the market. In short, we've been busy, and we've been eating well. Surprisingly, we seem to be losing weight rather than gaining it, maybe because of the pace we've been keeping. It almost seems like we've driven down every side road in southeastern Sicily. The rental car and gasoline costs have skyrocketed, but so have the memories. If we don't try to capture some of these adventures in writing soon, the memories will melt away into the obscure land of forgotten details, along with those of our visits to Delos, Mystras and other "missed blog" locations.We'll do our best to catch up over the next week.
Our two weeks with Katherine seemed to have gone by in a flash. We said goodbye to her on Wednesday afternoon, when she took the bus to Catania airport. From there we went straight to a goodbye lunch with friends Chris and Sandra (Deep Blue), Ni and Krissy (Finalmente) and Dan and Judy (Koa), then back to the boat to prepare for our departure from the marina the next morning. It was hard to be saying so many goodbyes all at once, and we were feeling pretty glum that evening. But on Thursday we sailed (well, actually motored) to Siracusa, and our friend Kathy MacGillivary has hopped onboard for a short visit. We're looking forward to "showing her the town" in one of our favourite destinations!