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Deep Blue
Living The Dream
Goodbye again to Syracuse

At o'dark thirty, together with Ni & Kris on Finalmente, we lifted our anchors and slid out of the anchorage whilst everyone else was nicely tucked up in bed and headed for Roccella Ionica. Leaving in the dark meant that we would arrive during daylight, something we always try to do.

During the trip, Ni called us up on the VHF to ask us if we fancied having fresh tuna for dinner - he had caught a Big Eye Tuna! We were very impressed, having given up on fishing 18 months prior due to lack of results.

Arrival into Roccella Ionica is always a bit tricky due to a sandbank right at the entrance and a strong swell could easily take the boat onto it. We had strong winds behind us which meant for a fast sail over but we were hoping that things would settle down before we tried to get in and they did. We tied up to the wall in the marina and stayed for a few days waiting for the next weather window to continue our journey east.

The tuna was delicious. We had sushi for two nights and then we opened our Jamie Oliver recipe book for inspiration on how to prepare a typical Italian dish and found just what we wanted in tonno di nonna fangitta (nana fangitta's tuna), a delicious casserole combination of tuna, tomatoes, chilli, capers, cinnamon, rosemary, anchovies and garlic. We'd looked at the recipe before but had never attempted having never had a large enough size tuna fillet before. Thank you Ni for your efforts.

We returned to the marina's pizzeria a couple of times for their fabulous metres of pizza and walked along the long, sandy, deserted beach. As usual, a good place to stop on the foot of Italy.

Water is no longer available in the top right-hand corner of the marina. It is available up to half way along the right-hand quay though.
We were told by a local that the entrance has now been permanently dredged to 3m.
Post office is not in the town centre - from centre walk out of town on main road (away from marina), turn right after the AGIP petrol station on the right and continue uphill for about 500m. PO on left-hand side behind grey railings.
Launderette - just before PO (see above) turn left at STOP sign and it is on the right-hand side. Did not check if it was self-service though. Did see another one on the way to PO, off main road on right. You need a bike to do laundry here!

Attempt to leave Syracuse

The forecast was good for an early departure from Syracuse. We had been there far too long due to the weather and knew that with a good forecast everywhere new people would inevitably arrive that we knew and we would be delayed further.

By now the anchorage was as full as it had ever been with 21 boats, a third of which were mostly American flagged and catamarans, very unusual. We joked that there were trying to create a new state in Syracuse!

As the sun was setting and we were getting the boat ready for the o'dark thirty departure, yet another American catamaran arrived and anchored close to us. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be friends Judi & Dan with their boat Koa who we had met in southern Sardinia the year before last and who we had last seen in Malta over a year ago. How could we leave without seeing them? We couldn't and decided to stay for one more day.

We were very happy to have had the chance to see our friends again and caught up on what we had all been up to over a delicious lunch overlooking the anchorage. Thank you Judi and Dan for turning up when you did.

Food Glorious Food

We always look forward to passing through Syracuse for many reasons but one of the main attractions for us is the fabulous food and wine on offer.

The daily market is the place to head for for fresh produce. The displays of fruit and vegetables are so colourful but don't buy too much in one go as they don't keep for long. What a good excuse to return every few days, as if you need one. It is not common practise to handle the produce and some stall holders will not be happy if you start touching their tomato display! Just say 'posso?' which means 'may I' before handling to avoid any misunderstanding. The stalls range in both size and quality so you might buy several things from one stall but then just basil from another because that is all that he is selling.

There must be at least half a dozen fish mongers, all singing away to sell their wares. The locals must eat a lot of fish to keep them all in business. We are always astounded by the size of some of the tuna and swordfish on display. Whilst our fishing exploits from the boat have been pathetic, we truly hope never to catch one of the gigantic tuna or swordfish that we see on the market. Delicious they may be but frightening too!

One of the places that we make sure we visit at the market is Antonio's cheese shop. It is a small shop with a stall outside and is run by Antonio, his wife, daughter and son. They have the best buffalo mozzarella that you can buy, as well as ricotta that they make fresh each morning. There is an array of different cheeses to choose from as well as olives, capers and home-made caponata (only made on Friday and Saturday) that is good on bruschetta (pronounced brus-ketta not brush-etta as we all do!). It is always fun to go there because you are always offered tasters of their latest favourite, sometimes with a glass of wine to wash it all down.

For wine, we head for Aquilea, a local co-operative from where you can buy wine in boxes of 5l, 10l or 20l (if you can carry it). Here you will find the local fruity red, Nero d'Avola at 1.40 euro/litre, go for the Chardonnay at 1.60 euro/l rather than the house white and the house Rose is excellent at just 1.10 euro/l. They are located first right on Corso Umberto, the main street that connects Syracuse new town with the old town.

A great find for us this visit has been the fish shop, Onda Blu. They have a stall on the market but their shop has lots of things you won't get on the market like home-made lobster sauce. We tried some with spaghetti and had enough over to make a lasagne with. The lasagne was much better and Chris said it was the best he had ever tasted. They have a kitchen at the back of the shop where they make everything and also do a take-away service. Inside the shop is a big fridge where you will find different home-made sauces and seafood antipasti. It is located on the left-hand side of the roundabout next to the bus station, on the main road out to Lidl and Famillia supermarkets.


Enjoy it all!

Back in Syracuse

We left Malta for Syracuse with a good weather forecast and were not disappointed, beating our previous time between Malta and Syracuse by 4 hours! Deep Blue was obviously glad to be out on the sea again and seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did.

Next day, the sun shone and we relaxed whilst getting used to being at anchor again bobbing up and down. Then for the most part of the following week, the wind blew and blew. Sounds familiar? It also rained very dirty rain and poor Deep Blue was covered in red sand, much worse than she had ever experienced in Malta. So, we got to work and washed her down as best we could.

As it was blowing quite strongly outside, I decided that I needed a change of hair colour and Chris had his initiation into colouring my hair. He did a pretty good job and I haven't managed to find any white hairs that he missed yet though I am confident that they will make a strong return soon, unfortunately.

There is always something to do on a boat. Whilst we were watching the Monaco Grand Prix, I went to get Chris a cold beer and noticed that it wasn't as cold as it should have been. After the race we took a look and worked out that the fridge thermostat has given up. Luckily, we found a service guy in town who specialised in our make of fridge. He was a great find and specialises in all kinds of boat electrics. He spoke fluent French, so language wasn't a problem, and he was able to supply a new thermostat for us and we were soon able to make ice again for our gin and tonics - phew!

During our time in the anchorage, we met up with American friends, Ni and Chris aboard their catamaran Finalmente. We had spent 10 days together in Syracuse before we returned to Malta last year. Also here was Fred and Gherda from Holland on their boat Pegasus. They spent the winter in Malta, like us, and were on their way to Greece for the summer, stocking up on wine and other goodies before heading off. Syracuse is a great crossroads in the Mediterranean and it wasn't long before boats going east and boats going west met up for drinks aboard Finalmente. Old friendships reignited and new ones made.

The unsettled weather is now calming and we are going from too much wind to none at all. Sounds familiar again? It's time to move on, our next stop will be to Roccella Ionica on the south coast of Italy where we will be able to give the boat a good wash to get rid of the final remnants of red mud. We're also looking forward to a metre of pizza.

For any boat electric problems, call Pietro Mauceri on 333 7308661 (mobile). Address Elettonautica di Pietro Mauceri, Viale Montedoro 85. The street is parallel (north) to the main street Corso Umberto. Pietro is out and about during the day and the shop is manned by his wife. He is at the shop between 6 - 8pm. He can deal with any electrics including Raymarine, Frigoboat, Victron & Mastervolt.

The new marina is still not finished and locals do not expect it to be for another 4-5 years. Planning permission was granted in the 1970's so that says it all.

The new quay for super yachts is also not finished. Apparently, the concrete caissons that are standing along the quay have been condemned due to poor concrete quality. Locals say that work should commence again once palms have been crossed. Watch this space. For cruisers, nothing has changed regarding anchoring.

Fond farewell to Malta

The time has come around again to slip the lines and say 'goodbye' to Malta as we start our 2010 travels. Malta has been a great place to over-winter and we hope to return again in the future.

The departure after winter is always bitter sweet. Whilst we are excited to set sail again, we also leave behind good friends who are heading in different directions. However, we know that we will be seeing them again at some point either on the water or on the land.

Our first journey will be to Syracuse in Sicily. We can get there in a day so it is a good first journey to wash away the winter cobwebs. From there we plan to head back over to Croatia, via the south and southwest coast of Italy, to visit the places that we didn't have time to see properly last year. Thereafter, we plan to head down the Adriatic coast to take in Montenegro and Albania before reaching Greece's northern Ionian. Well that's the plan but as always, it's flexible!

Rosemary's visit to Malta

Our friend Rosemary visited for a few days last week. Luckily, the Icelandic volcanic ash didn't affect her flight, though some people we know were stranded in various parts of the world because of it. We had a fun-packed few days which included a liveaboard barbecue, an audio visit around St. John's Co-Cathedral, Rosemary at the helm when we went out for a sail and dining out. It was Rosemary's first time on a sail boat and she took to it very well so hopefully we'll see her again aboard again soon.

Winter maintenance 2010

Having not lifted Deep Blue out of the water for 2 years, we decided that it was about time to change all of that and so we spent one week living 10 feet up in the air at Manoel Island Yacht Yard.

We had a full on week cleaning, polishing, checking underwater items such as the bow thruster, propeller and anodes. Chris then drilled a hole right through the hull to finish off our big project of the winter installing a water maker.

During our time 'on the hard' as we yachties call it, the Pope visited Malta for 2 days and we were able to hear the open-air Mass on Sunday morning that was relayed on loud speakers. Some of our friends also saw him whizzing around town in the famous Pope mobile.

At the end of our week, we found muscles that we didn't know we had and a layer of dust covered everything but we were really pleased with our efforts and are happy that Deep Blue will be looking after us well.

Last week, we had to have our life raft serviced. We had never seen it inflated before (and hope we never do!) but it was great to see it in a controlled environment. I was disappointed not to have seen it deployed but as the gas canister is an expensive item to refill, the agent inflated it with compressed air. All was well and it was repacked until the next service in 3 years time.

Wayne's opening night

The culmination of a year spent in Malta by our friends Wayne and Angie was celebrated last night when we attended Wayne's opening night of his first solo exhibition. Over half the paintings sold and there is another 3 weeks of the exhibition to go. He'd better get the paintbrushes out again! Well done Wayne.

Winter study in Malta

Winter study in Malta!

10th Wedding Anniversary celebrations – skiing Jasper, Canada

On 5th February, we celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary, ah. When we got married in 2000, we spent our honeymoon with friends skiing in Meribel, France. Since then, we've enjoyed many skiing trips together but since leaving the UK, we haven't managed to join in the fun. However, being a special occasion and finding a special deal, we decided that it would be great to celebrate together. Just one thing, we didn't tell our friends we would be joining them!

They headed off to Jasper, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and three days later, we flew out too. After a long journey, we checked into the hotel and found that our room was actually in the middle of the four rooms that our friends had been allocated. Amazing as the hotel had no knowledge that we knew one another. Just as we got into our room, we received a text message from Mike (one of our friends there) letting us know that they were having a great time and wishing that we were with them. What perfect timing. Chris called him up on the hotel phone, pretending to be in Malta and closed the conversation by saying that he wished Mike could buy him a drink. You can imagine the look of total surprise when two minutes later, Mike received a knock on his door and saw the two of us standing there when he opened it with Chris demanding his drink!

We were lucky to be in Canada whilst the 2010 Winter Olympics were taking place over in Whistler and the town was buzzing with the excitement of it all. We had a great week with our friends and the skiing was great fun too. We hope that we don't have to wait another 10 years to ski with our friends again.

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Who: Chris & Sandra Mennem
Port: Shotley, UK
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