This one's for you Alana!
We're underway! On Monday last week, we finally escaped from the shipyard dock in Marina di Ragusa and headed east. Our loose plan was to spend a few days at anchor in Siracusa harbour before making the two-day passage to Greece. Siracusa would be a good place to stock up on a few essential items like prosciutto, parmesan cheese and good Sicilian wine. Before we left, I dashed up the hill to say goodbye to our friend Katia. "You're really going to Greece?" She looked skeptical. "You'd better take a big pile of euros with you" she said. "There's a good chance that the banking system will shut down". Sound advice, as you've probably already guessed.
Our first stop was Porto Paolo, just 20 miles down the coast. We were expecting to have a quiet night eating leftovers, but instead we had a lovely evening with Steve and Judy from "Miss Adventure", a British couple that we had briefly met before leaving Marina di Ragusa. Judy's mother Doris Black was originally from Halifax and was the first woman to become a full member of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. Then she met a British navy man and became one of the few war brides who moved from North America to England instead of the other way around. Does anyone at home know if there are any photos of her at the Squadron?
Early the next morning we continued to Siracusa, which is a great anchorage as long as the wind isn't blowing from the southeast. Which of course it was. Getting in and out of the dinghy in such rough conditions can get ugly, so instead of spending the evening people-watching in the Piazza Duomo as we'd planned, we admired the view from the cockpit. These neighbours weren't quite as friendly as Steve and Judy, but they added a little interest to our photographs!
Eventually the wind died down. Over the next few days, we spent our time doing all the things we love to do in Siracusa. At the market, the line-up for sandwiches at our favourite cheese shop was so long that we couldn't even get in the door to say hello to Gaetano. Their high rating on Trip Advisor has obviously been great for business, but we'd have to do without our smoked mozzarella this time. We made up for it by buying big slabs of tuna from our favourite fish monger, which Rick later marinated with olive oil and lemon and cooked to delicious perfection. Our trips to the wine shop and the Lidl store were equally successful. Now we were almost ready to set sail.
Our last night in Siracusa was very special. We started with "aperitivi" in the Piazza Duomo and at a small bar in the courtyard of a palazzo, then a small taste of take-away cannoli and finally, pizza at Kaos. Yes, in that order. Sometimes, living in the moment means having dessert before dinner. The Sicilians around us were definitely living in the moment. At night, the Piazza Duomo is like a fairyland, and everybody seems to know everybody. They kiss cheeks and laugh and gush over the children, who are always brought along for the evening. A young couple with a baby in a stroller shared a single order of French fries, drank only water and seemed to have as much fun as the people who were eating pizza and drinking wine. We could have lingered until midnight, but we knew we had to set sail early the next morning.
What came next wasn't as much fun. We'd thought the weather forecast looked pretty good for sailing to Greece, although the first few hours would be a beat. Normally I wouldn't have agreed to that, but we were anxious to get away, and lately I haven't been as prone to seasickness as I used to be. Famous last words. Within an hour I was feeling queasy. The queasiness made me grumpy, which in turn got Rick grumpy. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it was difficult to appreciate the majestic view of Mt. Etna or the magic of a pod of dolphins leaping beside the boat It was equally difficult to appreciate the moon setting in a brilliant blaze of orange while I was retching at the stern. Early in the morning after our second night at sea, a brilliant and complete rainbow stretched across the horizon ahead of us. Normally this would have filled me with wonder, but instead I thought "Oh no, does this mean it's going to rain on top of everything else?" The seas were like a washing machine for a full 46 hours. I started to wonder whether it was time to buy a cottage and plant a garden.
And then...we sailed into the calm waters between Lefkada and Cefalonia, and suddenly it all seemed worth it. It's been nearly 4 years since we were last in Greece, and we'd forgotten how beautiful it is. How beautiful? As beautiful as Cape Breton. Maybe even more beautiful, and that's a compliment I don't give lightly.
We had one more hurdle to cross. Since Aisling is a Canadian-flagged boat, we needed to check in and get a cruising permit. We'd assumed we could do that in Levkas, but when Rick checked our Greek Waters pilot he realized that we'd have to go to Preveza. Luckily, that was only 5 miles away. But upwind!
The story ends well. Going upwind isn't so bad when the wind is light and the seas are flat. When we arrived in Preveza, we were able to tie up side-to on the waterfront, which was a nice surprise. The Port Police officer told us that we'd have to wait until the next day to check in, so at least for the moment there was no need to deal with the famous Greek bureaucracy. By 2.30 we were sitting in a taverna on the waterfront in Preveza, eating Greek salad and fried calamari. I think we'll stay here for a while. I just hope we brought enough euros!