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Matilda - Waltzing Round the Med
Mangiare Italiano!
24/07/2014, Syracusa

Our Italian/Italophile friends have always raved about their food and wine and I've been looking forward to sampling as much of it as I can but so far it's all been a bit disappointing. There seems to be a lot of pizza and pasta on offer but I can get that at home. We've had a nice panini or two, we sampled arancini balls stuffed with spinach which was OK and a couple of nice plates of pasta but nothing to get too excited about and, although the pastries look fantastic, I'm trying to avoid them! Today, however we went to Syracuse market and I am converted! Stall after stall of the freshest looking vegetables, stalls with just tomatoes but about 10 different varieties, fish stalls, seafood stalls, stalls selling dozens of antipastos, stalls selling draught olive oil, bread, cheeses, dozens of different smoked or preserved meats. Delightful smells are coming from the oil drum wood fires where they are cooking baked onions and sweet red peppers.

And what a fantastic atmosphere! All the stall holders are smiling and holding out dishes of samples to try. Little bruschettas with pickled veggies on the top, slices of smoked mozzarella, glasses of the local wine.

This showman has lots of women surrounding him, giggling, as he flirts with them and gives away samples of ricotta that he has baked. He crushes a clove of garlic on the plate and wipes it round, sprinkles olive oil on and some of the dried thyme sold in bunches and adds the chopped ricotta. Once you have tasted it, you have to buy one to take home and gorge! We had planned to come back for an antipasti tasting-plate for lunch but then we see him making a huge baguette for a couple of young men in the queue. He cuts the baguette in half lengthwise and hollows it out. Then he squirts olive oil on it, adds a layer of pickled veg, a layer of ricotta, a layer of sliced greeny-red tomatoes, more oil, a few crushed olives, some grated smoked mozzarella, more olive oil, several slices of see-through prosciutto and puts the lid of the bread on. Cut in half it is a fantastic lunch for two and cost 4 euros.

The young men tell us to order ours now. "If you come back in an hour, the queue will be too long". I take his photo while he makes our lunch. He insists on having our photo taken together. I think I am special but the Dutchman taking the photo says 'he asked my wife to marry him yesterday!" I still think I was special - but perhaps only for as long as it takes to make my lunch.

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26/07/2014 | Del Whitmore
We were sad to leave the markets too. Best part of Siracusa
Flying Down to Syracusa
23/07/2014, Syracusa

At last, we had the best sail we have ever had on Matilda. 8 knots all the way from Taormina to Syracuse! Lets hope this is the start of much more sailing and a lot less motoring!

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Our Very Own Lava Lamp
14/07/2014, Taormina

We left Crotone at 5 am and did an overnight passage to Taormina in Sicily arriving at 6 am the next morning. It was pretty busy during the night and the lights of Sicily were visible the whole way. We had our AIS on which shows most of the bigger boats but we could swear we could see a huge liner all lit up. We kept checking the AIS but no liners were coming up. Eventually we realised it was the land with lights from houses all the way up the side of the hillside!

During the whole night we had lightening surrounding us but no thunder or rain and the most spectacular red sky and sunrise making the long night worth while (almost!)

We could also see a glow on top of one of the hills which we couldn't make out but, as we got nearer, it turned out to be lava flowing out of Mt Etna!

Mt Etna has been very active in the last few years and has had many eruptions, the most recent being this year, luckily with no loss of life or property. They did have to stop the tourist trips for a while though! It constantly smokes and streams out lava into the Valle del Bove below. You can see the smoke and steam above and the glow from the lava at night.

A couple of nights ago we sat in the cockpit watching a couple of planes land and take off by us, scooping up water from the bay and heading back over the mountain to put out fires that had started up in the surrounding forests.

The super yacht next door got quite a good view too!

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Skinny-Dipping in Italy
12/07/2014, Crotone

Sailing here in the Med, you're hard-pressed not to glance over at another boat and see the occupants, usually German or Scandinavian, jumping naked off the back of their boat or showering or just standing, bits and pieces akimbo, enjoying the sun.

However, I'm British. We don't do that. We spend hours trying to change into our cozzies under a towel in case a bit of flesh is seen by someone not in our immediate family. Like we've got something that no one else has got. Not sure why it is. Probably something to do with Queen Victoria who had her piano legs covered apparently.

So, it was with some degree of shock and a little sadness that I realised I have never skinny-dipped. Not ever. Not even in the swinging 70s when we were all high on love and peace and marijuana. I did manage to sunbathe topless once when Jeni and I went to Menorca but I didn't like it. I couldn't concentrate on reading my book.

However, as I turned 61 the other day and we are now sailing in our own boat, half way across the world, to some of the most amazing places, surrounded by crystal clear, warm water, there really is no excuse. So this morning, after only a cursory look around, I leapt off the back - actually no, I slithered surreptitiously off the back - and had my very first skinny dip. All I can say is - wow, why have I never done this before???

I will spare you the photographic evidence (though there is some on application) but I have now decided that I am going to be skinny-dipping for England at every opportunity. The next time you glance over at a catamaran anchored across the bay from you and see a largish, oldish, naked woman shrieking and leaping off the back, it's probably going to be me!

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13/07/2014 | Del Whitmore
something about those naked mostly males adorning the boats here...
14/07/2014 | Jeni Sandercott
Find an empty bay in Majorca and I will be joining you. xxxx Jen
16/07/2014 | lynn
Go for it girl xx
Happy Birthday To Us!!
10/07/2014, Crotone

We left Santa Maria di Leuca at 0500 hours on our birthday for what we thought would be a gentle 13 hour trip to Crotone. The first 8 hours were rather pleasant, motor sailing into South West winds but managing 7-8 knots. We wanted to get there as fast as possible because the forecast was for stronger winds to come in later and we hoped to be safely ensconced in one of the marinas before then. Needless to say, the wind came in early and we spent the last 4 hours flogging into 20 knot winds gusting to 35. As you can see, we even had to look out the wet weather gear, the first time since going to Crete in May last year!

We didn't go into the marina as it is apparently really uncomfortable in there if the winds are from the South West and we ended up anchoring off the beach.

Within 10 minutes, the sea calmed, the sun came out and it was like the last few hours had never happened except we were soaking wet and Matilda was covered in salt!

Our special Birthday dinner consisted of heated up curry and a couple of beers and we were asleep by 9 pm!

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11/07/2014 | Jacki Newey
Happy Birthday! Enjoying your photographs and informative blogs. Preparing for a weekend in London, as the Clippers arrive tomorrow morning into St Katherines Dock. Tammy's (DIL) Dad has completed as a crew member, Round The World

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