Athens to Santorini, Greece with MarkJ
20110919-0929 Athens to Santorini, Greece w MarkJ
You know you've found a true best friend when you enjoy each other's company, sailing days on end into heavy winds and huge waves. We found just that when MarkJ joined us for 10 days bouncing around the Cyclades Islands of Greece.
MarkJ is one of our closest friends, a good-natured, intelligent, humorous man we have known for almost 12 years now. After a day of down time catching up on each other's lives and sorting through purchased provisions he shipped with him, we toured Athens via a hop on hop off tour bus. We visited the major famed ruins of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Ancient Agora, Temple of Zeus, the National Archeological Museum, Theatre of Dionysos, walked the Plakas, and googled at many Greek gods. Every evening we chilled and played music, card games or watched a movie, danced, and quite frankly were eager to be just silly together.
After several days of Athens overload, we were ready to set sail. We knew from the weather forecast the meltemi winds were to kick in and we would be in for some wild rides for the next week or so. These Northerly winds are characterized by their noticeably cigar shaped clouds that hover above the hills and mountains, and are a result of a gradient pressure from low and high pressure areas from the surrounding lands spilling into the Med. They begin their blows in June/July, reaching full strength by August and supposedly should lessen by end of September to October. However, for the next week plus they stuck around to greet us almost daily.
Our next anchorage was in a bay overlooking the Temple of Poseidon off the mainland after a healthy long day sail. Of course we hiked the temple, and then found a small family owned resto for a huge fresh grilled Dorado fish as the main course.
The next morning, we reefed aVida preparing for the forecasted 25 knot winds. The weather was somewhat cooler with some rain. We anchored off Kea and hiked up into the town which was a long walk upwards and perched upon the cliffs. Lunch at a Taberna and then an evening sail to Kithnos. We had some difficulty finding a suitable anchorage with very little light, as nightfall was approaching.... And as you can imagine none of us got very much sleep. It sure doesn't help having anchored with little moonlight, positioned in a narrow bay, and surrounded by a rocky shoreline by so many unknown feet away.
The next morning we set sail again, thankful we were not as close to the rocky shore as we thought. The winds increased to over thirty knots and the waves were probably 12 footers, very steep and close together. Mark made the call to turn back to our previous anchorage... there was no reason to suffer through this for the day. They say it's not so much the boat handling in heavy conditions you worry about - it's more the crew on board weathering it out.
So, anchored off Kithnos was a safe move, but the bay itself very barren. We walked the town and its mountains, which were both completely desolate, only with a spatter of empty vacation villas and not a Taberna in site. We chilled, tried our hand at fishing off the boat, swam, read, enjoyed a homemade meal, and watched a movie.
Next stop was Mikonos! And it was a long wavy and windy sail. We successfully docked off the quay and upon arrival finally took a shower, and then hit the town for an evening walk through its narrow alley-ways , white-walled building and stone surfaces webbed with white paint. They call the heart of the island "Little Venice" where swarms of hot spots and restos are engulfed along the shoreline. Drinks, dinner, music, and dancing in the evening (and for MarkJ the entire night!).
With aVida safely tied to a dock, we took a ferry to Delos the next day, a small island nearby known for having one of the most important archeological sites -the birthplace of the twins Apollo and Artemis from the 8th century B.C., with no population, and surrounded by the bustling other Cyclades Islands. A true soothing contrast to the relentless liveliness of Mikonos. Back on board after a meal at a beachside resto in Mikonos, cards and bed.
From Mikonos we sailed to Naxos, working our way SE. Anchored in the bay after several tries, we ventured into the town, found a quaint resto for dinner, with a hot dessert from a hot Greek donut man, then back on the boat. MarkJ was in heaven with his handmade donut treats made by this Greek god.
We rented a car to explore Mikonos, through cliffy winding roads, to see Mount Zeus. Lunch beachside, movie on board, and watching the weather as the winds increased.
Our sail the next day was kind to us. Despite the increased winds, they were behind us, allowing us good speed as well as smoother sailing. Our destination was Thira, aka the picturesque Santorini. We had trouble finding an anchorage close to the town because the depths were too vast due to the huge cliffy coastline. We settled on a very protected quaint anchorage in a town called Akrotiri situated on the SE side of the Fira touristy area town- only a 15 minute taxi ride away.
Santorini will take your breath away with its surreal landscape that was probably the biggest eruption in history. Rumor has it this was the lost city of Atlantis. Views from the edge of the caldera over the multicolored cliffs of its central town called Fira are breathtaking, and at night the edge is a frozen cascade of lights that eclipses the display of gold shops and restos in the streets behind.
Mark and MarkJ call me the cat woman. Just about everywhere we walked in Greece we were approached with many cats. I seemed to attract them. They were not just eager to eat my tidbits of leftover meals, they just wanted attention and affection... don't we all.
After dinner out, we spent our last night chillin again, with music, dancing, and just having fun among friends. Of course the next day was departure day for MarkJ and an emotional one for us all. We say we would like to keep MarkJ inside our pockets and let him out whenever we need a good laugh. He says we are one of his closest friends. We always will treasure our adventures we have had together and look forward to our next MarkJ "fix" in the future.
Corinth Canal, Piraeus, Meteora, Greece
20110910-0918 Corinth Canal, Piraeus, Meteora - Greece
After transiting the Corinth Canal, we have almost a week until our friend MarkJ comes to join us in Athens.
It is a leisurely sail from Corinth to Aigina Island, our night stop half way to Athens, where we explore the ancient ruins, walk the charming town, and have dinner and play cards.
Then to Athens! The entire coast of the Saronic Gulf on which Athens sits is heavily developed, industrial, especially compared to where we have been. We settle into Marina Zea near Piraeus Harbor, the primary commercial port for Athens, on a Med mooring with our stern to the dock. Marina Zea is a large well protected circular harbor, surrounded by a plethora of tabernas, shops, markets, bars, chandleries- pretty much anything we need we can easily walk to. It is Hot and sunny, but we aren't complaining because we know this will change soon.
We spend a few days cleaning the boat inside and out, provisioning, getting some supplies for boat repairs and maintenance, etc., and plan our trip to Meteora in Central Greece via train for several days.
Meteora is a striking geological site, with dozens of very tall vertical spires of rock arranged close together as if it was a giant rock forest. Over 1000 years, numerous churches and monasteries have been built on top of the spires by monks on an impressive scale, for security against Turkish invasions as the Byzantine power of the Roman Empire was waning. In those days, the primary access to some of the monasteries was by a manual cable winch that lifted people and supplies in nets. While there, the annual pan European rock climbing event was going on, and we could see many dozens of rock climbers scaling these rocks all weekend. We rented a moto scooter so we could cover more ground and see more sites, much of it via steep switchback roads up and down the surround cliffs, from which there were additional long walks up steep trails or steps to access the monasteries.
Back in Athens, we hired a professional crew to do an intensive boat cleaning while we traveled in Meteora - all topsides cleaned, polish stainless steel, remove rust and oil stains, etc. Vasilis is the owner of the business, and a very intelligent educated engineer. We spent a great afternoon on aVida discussing our philosophies about religion, politics and business, on which we meshed perfectly. Vasilis is disgusted with the corruption, bribery and entitlements of Greek government, and is preparing to move to New Zealand to start a new yacht-oriented business in a better cultural climate.
After some additional provisioning, we are ready for our good friend MarkJ to arrive and spend almost 2 weeks with us. We will tour Athens together, and then sail southward along the coast, then south hopping various Cyclades Islands, with a plan to end in Santorini where he will take a ferry back to Athens and depart.
Hello Greece! Italy to Corinth - Greece
20110828-0909 Hello Greece! From Italy to Corinth
Departing Italy is sad, but we are eager to experience Greece again. We have worked our way from Italy past Albania to Corfu first on the far west of Greece, visiting many small islands and villages, then through 2 canals to cut across the giant Peloponessis landmass to take a shortcut to Athens, where we are meeting a friend who will join us for a few weeks, while we explore Athens and then the Cyclades islands.
Summarizing the daily log below, we find the Greeks less friendly than the Italians; there are still many very nice Greeks, but some who are less so. Fortunately, the great majority of Greeks we meet speak some English, unlike the Italians, which makes it easier to find our way, order food, etc, which is fortunate because the Greek language and alphabet are almost incomprehensible to us.
The coastline and islands are very naturally beautiful and rugged, more often with sparse or browning vegetation than the lush forests behind us, especially as we go further south and east. The water is crystal Med clear blue, except near polluted Athens. The great majority of the coast is sparsely populated (except near Athens), unlike the Italian coast that seemed be an almost continuous string of towns, resorts, apartment buildings and development.
The weather continues to be even hotter, no rain for 3 months now, temperatures near 100F each day, and winds generally too light to sail on- but that Will change when we get to the Cyclades soon.
The Greeks appear to be more relaxed than the excitable Italians who speak vigorously with their hands as well as mouths, and more disorganized and haphazard. Bus and ferry schedules are poorly or not documented, the bus stops have no information about buses, routes or schedules, and the actual schedule is often not what may be written when it is- so we have to ask several people several times until we get consistent information.
The Greek economic problems that are rattling even Wall Street are evident here; there was a train strike last week; a taxi strike this week, and other coming next week. Everyone is upset at the inefficiency and corruption in Greek government, and unwilling to accept austerity measures that will impact their social services "entitlements"- a Mexican StandOff. It won't end pretty.
But we are coming to be accustomed to the Greek ways, meeting many kind people, and find ourselves feeling safe and comfortable even when we walk back streets and alleys even in Piraeus or Athens even at night.
20110828 Half way across the Ionian Sea from Italy to Greece, several pods of dolphins greet us, one swims with us for while. A continuous stream of sail and power boats, mostly Italian flagged, is heading westward apparently returning home from their Greek adventures on this last weekend of the peak August holiday season. We are the only boat we see heading eastward. First Greek landfall is Nisos (island) Othoni. The small harbor crowded with 5 Italian flagged boats on anchor inside has many rocks and hazards around the edges, seemingly too crowded already, so we anchor outside the harbor. Then we watch 2 more sailboats squeeze in- I like a bit more swinging room.
The town is small and simple, very clean, with many crisp white buildings in a line along the harbor. The water in the harbor is crystal clear, and unpolluted. A small tavern has seating right on the beach under a few trees and thatched umbrella, so we relax with our refreshments. The owner of the tavern is a weathered and kindly man with a long rough ponytail.
Disrobing to our swim suits at our seats, the swim in the 73F waters is soooo refreshing. The beach is mostly pebbles with a bit of sand, but very clean.
The small market nearby provides some provisioning, and we return for dinner aboard.
20110829 Othoni, Kassiopi. Up at 10, no hurries or worries today. All 7 sailboats in the harbor are gone with an early start for their voyage back to Italy. Today we head for the island of Corfu, sailing along the north coast.
Many other islands are visible around us, but Greece has far too many islands to hope to visit all of them. Ahead and to port we can see the tall mountains of Albania mainland; to starboard the rugged cliffs and mountains of Corfu.
Approaching Kassiopi harbor on the isle of Corfu, the town is very pretty. We motor into the harbor for a peek, and there is obviously no room for us in here with the local boats and a few transit yachts. So we try to anchor just outside the breakwall- the anchor does not hold a pulls up a pile of weeds, so we move around the point the next bay and anchor in the lee of the point- it is undeveloped except for a few private upscale residences with a view to die for. After a swim in the bay, we dinghy into Kassiopi, and settle into a café on the waterfront for lunch and wine. Walking the town, we are surprised to see how large the town is, behind the harborfront- and how touristy. There is a byzantine castle on the hill that is interesting to see. Back to the boat for some relaxation- Rita is doing her cross-stitch project, Mark reading a book. Dinner, movie, bed.
20110830 Kassiopi, Gouvina, Corfu Town. The pilot book says that a yacht needs to check in with Greek customs, immigration, and Port Authority to get a "Transit Log", and we must surrender this when we leave Greece, and each office gets their fees. After stopping in Govina Marina, the marina office tells us that they can only process EU boats, we are BVI, so we must go to Corfu commercial harbor to see the authorities. Corfu is a Big town, with 2 giant forts, and many tourists, but very alive. There is no anchoring possible near the harbors and city, so we must go around to the south of the peninsula to anchor, far away. Fortunately the "old castle" on the point has a moat behind it, and we can use the dinghy to go through the moat to get a bit closer to the town. Then the Long walk to the Customs office at the very far end of the commercial harbor- several miles. Then the immigration office. Then the Port Authority, all far from each other. After many hours and miles of walking and several sets of officials to deal with, we have our Transit Log for aVida, and we walk far back to the old town for a much needed rest, lunch, and vino, and some internet access. Still exhausted and hot, we head back to aVida for an afternoon swim, more reading and cross-stitch. Rita makes awesome sepia pasta, very wide noodles made with cuttlefish ink. Early to bed.
20110831 Corfu Town. AM swim and shower. Laundry day. Rita bags everything up, and now the task of finding a Lavanderia. Into the dinghy it all goes, and we dinghy to the marina to ask where we can find one. Walk the very pretty town, lots of history here, 2 giant ancient fortifications, many miles, very hot. Provisioning, then back to aVida for dinner and a movie.
20110901 Corfu. Haircut day. We have been letting ourselves go, long shabby hair, Mark has a beard, moustache, and "flavor saver"; Rita has a big mop behind her head. We wear the same clothes for many days in a row, and shower infrequently- we think the body adjusts to this more natural approach, and doesn't get as smelly as you might think- or maybe not- a friend suggested that it is our noses that don't work anymore. Anyways, it Clean Up day from here on out. Nice short haircuts, pickup the laundry, back to aVida, back to shore to check-out with the Port Authorities (again), dinner and a movie again.
20110902 Depart Corfu, anchor off Parga.
20110903 Anchor off Preveza
20110904 Mooring ball in Porto Spiglia, a tiny village in a pretty cove.
20110905 Anchor in Mesalongion bay.
20110906 Anchor off Patra, very close to shore to stay out of the harbor entrance. We explore the town, and find it to be large, dirty, rough, with little in the way of historical sites or inviting tabernas or restaurants. As we dinghy back through the main harbor, the Coast Guard harasses us, follows us to aVida, checks our papers, and warns us of the many Pakistanis who live in the area where we are, and suggests we are not safe here. It is dusk, but we move anchorage N of Patra for the night just to be safe, not far from the 'longest cable suspension bridge in the world", which we will pass under tomorrow.
20110907 Glad to leave Patra. It is blowing 20+ knots, with white capped waves on the nose. The inland sea between Pelloponisis and the Greek mainland to the north is fairly narrow, especially near the bridge, and it seems to act as a wind tunnel that channels the wind from east to west between the high mountains on either side. We contact bridge control tower on VHF and get clearance to pass under the center of the main span, due to our mast height. As the voyage continues, the winds calm somewhat, and then die as we turn north into the bay of Galaxidhi, and anchor directly off the town just outside the harbor entrance. This is a very quaint town, and we meet the friendliest people here. There are many tabernas along the waterfront, surprisingly many for such a small town. We first ask around to find the times and place to catch the bus tomorrow to Delphi, ancient Greek ruins not far away. After walking to the town center, and around the scenic peninsula, we select a taberna on the small street that defines the waterfront that looks particularly inviting. We are accustomed to cats, dogs and birds that beg for food at the tables, but this is the first time we are accosted by gaggles of geese and ducks, aggressively demanding food at tableside. After dinner Rita steps into the street to feed the geese some bread, the largest goose gets impatient and begins snapping at Rita's legs to get all of the bread- everyone in the taberna got a good laugh.
20110908 Bus trip to Delphi, built very high up on the face of a mountain. Awesome ancient ruins. Mind boggling that 2700 years ago the seeds of western philosophy, music, arts, poetry, politics and culture were first born here. The artifacts, statues, and ruins are impressive.
Back to Galaxidhi, where we learn that the authorities don't want us anchor outside the harbor (along with a 100 foot powerboat- I think they ruined it for us) and we must move to a bay on the other side of the peninsula.
20110909 Easy 36 NM motorsail to Corinth, where we pass through the Corinth canal into the Saronic Gulf, on which Athens sits, and which leads to the Agean Sea, and the Cyclades Islands, and Turkey.
In ancient times, armies would drag their heavy ships across the 5 mile wide isthmus at Corinth- Octavian pursued Anthony here. In Roman times, Nero used 6000 Jewish slaves to begin digging a canal, but he didn't get far due to insurrection and war. The present canal was dug by France and Greece in 1893, and has been expanded since, bombed by the Nazis in WW2, etc.. The history of Europe, and its successions of a dozen empires and conquering armies over 4000 years, and the fortifications and churches they built, is incredible and rich.
About Our Voyaging
20110910 - About Our Voyaging - Now in Greece
Rather than recollecting our day by day adventures, we opted this time to share our thoughts and feelings after voyaging many thousands of miles since October 2009.
Resulting from over 25 years of hard labor, building a business, and years of planning and preparation for our departure, we admit the rewards of our journeys have been astounding and spectacular. Achieving "the dream" holds us fortunate and quite thankful.
Despite the daily routines and harsh realities of living on a boat, keeping watch for hours on end, relentless boat maintenance, weather and route planning, etc., aVida has become a respectful second home, a powerful and strong vessel, guiding us to our every next destination. We have seen multiple countries, numerous coastlines, stunning terrain, and have experienced a wide variety of cultures and colorful peoples.
Although leaving our loving family and friends, our treasured home, and exciting challenges at AVID was difficult, we have gained an unassuming respect for the seas, strengthened our commitment to each other, and have, truly, lived a lifetime of experiences culminated in almost two years.
Apparently, the sailing life has metamorphosed us into more relaxed human beings. So, with a somewhat simpler lifestyle, we look forward to just finding the little pleasurable moments in a day - exploring the next cliff-laden cove, sighting dolphins in the distance, anticipating stronger winds that will enable us to set our sails, savoring a splendid sunset, plunging into the sea after many days void of a shower and change of clothes, hiking up the hills for a panoramic view, trekking through winding cobblestone streets, admiring ancient architecture, divine ruins and structures, meeting friendly foreigners and other cruisers, immersing ourselves in another book or a new hobby, and to finally - relax.
We can only hope that the photos in our gallery present you with a special sliver of the millions of incredible sights we have seen. We have not left our world behind at all, we have just gained a greater appreciation for it. We have been living "the dream" - and we are quite fortunate and thankful for it.
Bottom of Italia to Greece
20110823-27 Bottom of Italia to Greece
20110823 It is like we have entered another country, this Calabria region of Italy. The people are dark skinned, the dialect quite different, the villages more poor and full of graffiti and uncollected trash. The quality of the restaurants and food is lower, and the prices on everything much less expensive. It is a rougher culture, and the pilot book warns of incidents of "aggravated burglary" in some of the harbors. After rounding the toe of Italy to the S, we anchor off Capo Buzzano, near a village that has no name on our charts. With no place to land or secure our dinghy, we spend the night aboard.
20110824 Destination Catanzaro, the capital of Calabria region, and the birthplace of Rita's grandfather, grandmother, and uncles on her dad's side. We choose to anchor off the beach outside the harbor, thinking it is more isolated and safer than inside the scruffy harbor where people could climb aboard. This town is called Marina Catanzaro, and it has a nice long crescent beach, and many southern Italians vacation here. Because we are going inland about 10 miles and for several hours to the main city of Catanzaro high up on a big hill, we put 2 anchors down to be safe. Catanzaro has some grand buildings, mostly government offices or churches, but the signs of graffiti, vandalism and trash are sad to see- this is often the result of high unemployment and poverty everywhere. Walking the streets and piazzas for quite a while, we do find the government building that holds the birth and marriage records for the region, with assistance of a group of helpful Italians who collectively speak barely enough English coupled with our Italian dictionary. Unfortunately it is 4pm and the office is closed already until the AM- and we decide not to pursue this in the AM- we need to move on.
Walking some more, we feel that people are staring at us, some in a "cagey" way? We wonder which ones are Cosa Nostra, which is still very prevalent in the south. We become nervous about the safety of aVida, and try to find the bus stop that will take us back to Marina Catanzaro. The bus stops have no listings of bus routes, numbers or times, have no seats, are vandalized and covered with graffiti. Very few people speak any English here- there is probably little need because foreign tourists rarely come to this region- but the word "bus" is fairly universal, we say "Marina Catanzaro", and they give us the bus number "treinta uno" (31) also raising their fingers with the count, and point us the direction of the correct bus stop. Quite a bit testy and unusual experience, but we were honored to have seen the town, the culture, and the people, knowing there were fond family roots there.
Back at the beach, aVida is fine, and we try to find a restaurant with a menu that looks appealing, and this takes quite a while, but we finally relax for a decent meal. We are relieved to see the dinghy is still locked to the dock, and we return to aVida.
20110825 The wind has been blowing NW quite strongly all night, and I am eager to do some sailing and make some time. It turns out this was just the night land breeze, and not far offshore our sails reverse and we are barely beating into the wind, but the genny does add about ½ knot of speed to our motoring- for a while, until we are motoring into 19 knots of wind and whitecaps on the nose.
Destination Crotone, the only marina for 70 miles either way where there is a fuel dock that we can access, and we don't want to let the tanks get too low in this region, with the passage to Greece coming up soon. The town is unremarkable; only 1 of many cafes has Wifi; we find the nicest (relatively speaking) restaurant for dinner on the water with a view of aVida.
20110826 Waking for a morning swim, we decide not to because of the many jellyfish all around aVida. Some are as large as a soccer ball, mostly orange with purple tentacles. There is a giant pure white one with a black ring around its dome, pulsating vigorously in the water, trailing a tentacles and stingers.
Provisioning and lunch in Crotone, then back to aVida to move on.
We motor (again) 20 miles to Ciro, at the tip of the ball of the foot, in position to sail (hopefully) for the tip of the heel tomorrow.
For Rita's comfort (and to frankly just to see the coastal terrain), we have been able to hop along the Italian coast without any overnight sailing, and the jump from the heel to Corfu in Greece is also a long day sail. Once in Greece, there are so many islands with many safe anchorages and harbors that we can day hop all the way to Turkey.
20110827 Our last day and night in Italy. 62 miles to Santa Maria Di Leuca, on the tip of the heel, across the Golfo di Carigliano, part of the Ionian Sea. Out of sight of land for most of the 8 hour trip.
This region of Italy is Puglia, and it is more like the NW coasts of Italy than Calabria. The streets and buildings are in good repair, there is no graffiti to be seen, and there are more acceptable restaurants and tavernas than we have seen in Calabria. We even notice the architecture reflecting white washed housing similar to that of the Greek's. Dinner ashore and prep for our voyage to Greece in the AM.
Farewell Italia. Italy has been a great experience. It is a very beautiful coastline, probably the most picturesque we have experienced. We agree that the people are the most friendly and helpful we have experienced, even given the general lack of English spoken here. The warnings we feared about crime in the south of Italy were unfounded in our experience. In virtually every anchorage, many Italians would come out in kayaks, dinghys, fishing boats, whatever, to investigate aVida, and most of them give us and aVida big smiles and thumbs up, saying "bella bota". We get nervous seeing kids hanging around aVida while we are ashore, but they never boarded or caused any problems. And the food, especially the pasta, pizza and bread were generally fantastic. The local vino is very good, at cheap prices. We have scoured and hugged most of the west and south coasts of Italy, and seen so much. But it is time to move on. We have friends coming to meet us in Greece, and we are now on a schedule again, but not as clockwork tight as the original Pacific and Atlantic crossings of 2009 and 2010.
Salerno to the Strait of Messina, Italy
20110818-21 Salerno to the Strait of Messina, Italy
20110818 We are a motorboat yet again, with too light winds in the wrong direction for sailing. Because we are hugging the steep coast, turning with it, and because the wind gets channeled to run parallel to the steep coast, we invariably have winds on the nose, or sometimes light aft winds- neither good for sailing. On the one hand, the weather has been fabulous- sunny, clear, gentle waves and wind- but we are a sailboat.
We anchor for lunch and provisioning off Acciaroli, a small town and harbor. We explore this town, which is pleasantly off the tourist circuit, but is very cute.
Onward again, pushing to make some distance because of friends arriving in Greece in Sept, we arrive at Scario after nightfall, under a light night fog and without benefit of any moonlight tonight (2/3 moon, but it hasn't risen yet) we feel our way into a potential anchorage area next to the harbor entrance. The red (port side) beacon light on the outer breakwall is dead, and we cannot see the breakwall at all. We see it on our chart plotter, but we Do Not trust it to be where shown- charts are known to be inaccurate, and harbors are being expanded frequently. So, at idle speed we creep slowly forward, with Rita on the bow, going only as fast as we can see in the dim from the lights from shore. We safely find a safe anchorage spot among a few other boats, one of them a very large Lagoon catamaran flying the Monaco flag.
Scario is a compact but lively town. The waterfront is full of restaurants, and full of local families out for the evening, out past midnight with babies in strollers. Even at 10PM, several restaurants are all booked up with reservations, so one restaurant arranges a table for us inside near the kitchen. Unfortunately, language and kitchen errors resulted in bad service, Rita received the wrong meal, and we had to force the issue to have them credit the price of her meal. Then we found a cute bar playing great music, with a waiter who is a self-proclaimed martini expert, all natural ingredients, and he makes us 2 superior Vesper (James Bond) martinis- this medication eases our minor irritations over dinner- we are not stressing out over anything these days.
20110819 At 5AM my phone rings, and the security company says there is a burgler alarm at our home- the police have been summoned- OK that is some stress at the moment. The police say they did a drive by, no sign of problems. Just to be safe, we called our neighbor Stanley, who stays up very late, and gave him access codes for the house. In the process, Stanley set of the alarm again, and the security company called again. No harm done. Stanley verified that the house is intact, no sign of break in or theft. Thank you Stanley for helping out.
After a bit more sleep, south we go again, stopping mid-day at Isola di Dino, a tall steep and long island near the shore. The cliffs of Dino have been carved by wind and water into wild sculptures, colored in red, white and black minerals, with many caves at water level and high above.
First we circumnavigate Dino with aVida to see what it offers. We were surprised to see on our GPS chartplotter screen that we were driving right across and through the island! Apparently the charts are quite inaccurate in this area, and the island is not where the chart shows- in some cases the error can be ½ mile. This is a great example of why one must never rely solely on charts for navigating, and constant vigilance is absolutely necessary, as well as for avoidance of other craft. We have a photo of this chart error.
We anchor, and take the dingy to explore several of the caves, some of which we can penetrate approx 200 feet into narrowing tunnels with stalagmites hanging from the ceiling, until we need a flashlight to see where we are going. Some rather large tour boats, with 20 people aboard, can also come well into the caves- several of them at a time. After swimming in a cave to cool off, and exploring more caves, we see numerous jellyfish in the waters around us- they are large, orange, with bright purple tentacles- and don't appear to have the long trailing stingers, but we don't take a chance. The beach is packed full of Italian August holiday seekers, many in small boats and canoes exploring Dino as well.
Continuing on to Cetraro for the night, we see the Monaco catamaran anchored out along the way. We anchor outside the Cetraro harbor, and dinghy in to explore this small town and find some dinner. Cetraro is a ¼ mile long 1 street town, with a few residences on the cliffs high above. The marina is fairly large, and must draw customers from far down the coast, due to the fact that marinas are few and far between in this region. Tonight is the big annual Cetraro festival, and the entire harbor area is setup with a large bandstand, too loud sound systems, seating for 500, and vendors, etc.
We walk N along the coast to try to find something better. After about 2 miles, we stumble upon a restaurant set in a cavernous cave, entirely natural stone except for the laid tile flooring. The menu and service are upscale, and we are delighted to have stumbled onto such a find- such is often the case when we wander unknown towns without prior knowledge.
After dinner, the streets are parked full of cars for the Cetraro festival 2 miles away. As we walk back to the harbor, the entire harbor and town are packed with people shoulder to shoulder. We don't particularly enjoy the show they are putting on (there is some good music, but they talk incessantly in between about Italia, local politicians, etc), nor standing in such crowds, so we dinghy back to aVida for sleep.
20110820 We are approximately at the "ankle" of Italy, and heading today for the "base of the toes". Along the way, 2 superlight airplanes with boats attached to them circle us twice and wave.
Other than that and few small local fishing boats, we are alone. This stretch of coast has no harbors for safety, no major towns, only a continuous string of tiny villages, beaches, and rocky shores. There is no place even to land and secure our dinghy except for 1 spot, too small for aVida. We anchor for the night at the next semi-protected anchorage, tucked in between the breakwall and the shore outside of Vibo Valentia harbor. To shore for an afternoon cocktail and snack, then some provisioning for fresh fruits and vegetables, which are very good quality. Back to aVida for a dinner and a movie.
20110821 A morning swim to Vibo Valentia shore starts the day. The waters around us are absolutely crystal clear azure- we are in 20 feet, but we can see detail on the bottom as if we could touch it. The bottom is pure white sand, very different from the pebble beaches that predominated over the past 2 weeks.
It is another hot sunny day, with light winds on the nose, so we are a motorboat again- I want to sail. Bitch bitch bitch- one day we may have high winds and seas again that we will wish for a day like this.
We make a day stop outside the harbor of Tropea. The town sits high on a bluff above the harbor, and a series of 200 or so steps takes us to the top. The town is full of crumbling old buildings, but still very lively with many cafes and restaurants, and too many tourist shops still. After much walking, we find a classy restaurant that is perched atop the bluff, overlooking the azure seas, beaches full of multi-colored umbrellas and people, and rugged rocks to left and right. Our table is in a cupola over the edge, and we can lean out the window from where we sit to see this gorgeous panorama. We order a whole grilled fish and salads, some rosato vino, and the bread is excellent.
We are really coming to enjoy rosata (rose) vino. It is served chilled with ice, as with a white, but the added red tint and complexity that comes from leaving the grape skins in the mash for a while makes it much more flavorful than a white, without the heavy tannins that a full red provides, especially in the middle of a hot day. But late at night, with a fine dinner, red is still our choice.
Back to aVida, another swim in this beautiful sea, then onward toward Sicily.
We stop in the lee of the steep prominence Capo Vaticano, where there is a sandy bay and the town of Santa Maria, with the beaches full of people, umbrellas, beach bars, restaurants, etc. There is no place to land a dinghy, so we swim to cool off, nap, dinner, and movie.
20110822 While voyaging we cross paths with a few of the unique swordfishing boats of this area. The boats are about 40 feet long, and have a 50 foot high tower with the helm up high. There is a 50 foot horizontal structure protruding forward from the bow, and a man sits at the end with a harpoon. Many cables secure these structures to the boat. The captain from his perch can see the swordfish that rest on the surface of the water, and he maneuvers the boat so the man up forward is directly over the swordfish, so he can harpoon the unsuspecting swordfish. No wonder there is certainly a lot of swordfish on the menus in this area.
Next stop Scilla, a town built behind and around a prominence with a large castle on it, the oldest part of which was reportedly first built by Ulysses. Scilla is at the entrance to the Strait of Messina, and we can see Sicily not far across the channel. A narrow band of land between the sea and the cliffs hold crumbling old buildings built right up to the sea, with several restaurants with terraces overhanging the crystal clear water. The water may be very clear, but we can see organic debris floating on the surface- we suspect these old buildings run their sewers direct into the bay- so we don't swim here, although the locals don't seem to mind. We first spend a few hours at a restaurant with Wifi to do some overdue Windows and antivirus updates, and connect a bit.
Then off to explore the narrow alleys of the town. It is a steep walk to the top of the cliffs where the main town is; it is larger and more touristy than we had expected. Exploring the old castle, we can see on the other side of the prominence that there is a bay with a long strand of beach, covered with multicolored umbrellas, beach bars, and wall to wall people.
We walk down to explore this extension of the town and the beach. It is really hot and humid, in the 90s, and we are sweating after a long day of walking. Back to another restaurant terrace over the water near aVida for a good dinner.
20110823 We move aVida to the other side of the castle and anchor off the beach for a refreshing morning swim, before we head into the Strait of Messina, the narrow passage between Sicily and the "tip of the toe" of the Italy boot. Over the ages this channel has been much feared; Odysseus experienced whirlpools, currents and hazards which he attributed to the monsters of legend Scilla and Charybdis. Even in the 1800's a British Admiral documented guns ships being "whirled around". The theory is that the many earthquakes in this region changed the topology of the channel bottom, and greatly reduced the interaction between the currents and topology in the present- but they still occur to a lesser degree, as we see for ourselves. Tides are negligible in most of the Med, but this narrow strait channels the tide creating currents of 4 knots, alternating N and then S with the tides. We enter the strait just after the peak N current begins to subside, and at times our forward speed over ground drops to 2.5 knots, from a normal 6.5knots on 1 engine. There are standing waves and some swirling currents that cause the autopilot to compensate frequently. As the current subsides, our speed returns to normal, but we also have 15 knots of wind on the nose, as usual.
The bottom of the foot of Italy from toe to heel has very few harbors in which to seek refuge in case of high winds which usually come from the S this time of year, presenting a dangerous lee shore. The weather forecast for the coming week looks mild, so we will try to get through this region quickly in case the weather turns.
Next stop - Catanzaro - Rita's grandparents and uncles birthplace on her dad's side.