With the U.K.s departure from Europe we've entered into new territory with regards to owning a British flagged vessel now in European waters. There's not much information currently available as to whether we should be checking in or out of main ports when travelling between European countries or indeed even whether we should be flying the yellow 'Q' flag (aptly known as the quarantine flag but not at all related to the covid pandemic). Historically it was used to signal quarantine but in modern use indicates the opposite, signalling "My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique" hence we do feel a bit like Christopher Columbus - pioneers not knowing what lies ahead of us from a movement point of view. We are recording our temperatures daily and documenting in the ships log - just in case the authorities ask for it. For the time being we've decided to play safe and stay in Italian waters until things become clearer as the season progresses.
The plan today was therefore a short hop to the next anchorage barely 5 miles utilising light airs. Imagine our surprise when in less than an hour of leaving the wind increased, waves formed with white crests and our wind instrument showing an unexpected 25 knots from our stern. We couldn't waste this wind so our plan changed to continue up along the eastern Sicilian coast towards Siracusa. Flirtie was like a steam train making 6.2 knots at times under Genoa alone. Had we known beforehand that we had perfect winds to take us up towards Siracusa then we would have fitted 'stick' (Windy) our new self steering wind vane. The GPS alarm continued to lose signal intermittently throughout the day and we enjoyed a close encounter with the Guardia Finanza who made their presence known by following alongside for 15 minutes before heading back to shore.
The anchorage at Siracusa is memorable for its glorious gloopy mud/silty bottom - it certainly makes for an excellent anchorage. Our last visit was back in September 2017 where we spent time ashore exploring Dystopia Ear, the Roman theatre and Ortiga - 'Siracusa and Ortigua, September 2017'
. We couldn't recall if it was still necessary to radio ahead and online research didn't provide anything useful so we contacted the harbour master anyway who subsequently granted us permission to anchor however we weren't allowed ashore until we had completed a 'declaration of health' form which had to be sent to 8 separate email addresses. It took 24 hours to be granted permission to go ashore. In between our waiting a huge cruise ship arrived, MSC Seaside so we can only imagine that all the passengers aboard the ship probably took priority over us. The waiting time did allow us to research into our GPS lost signal and information suggested that there is/has been possible GPS jamming activity in this area due to the movement of the CSG21 'Carrier Strike Group'
travelling down the Messina Straits which seems likely given that our unit is now miraculously working again.
MSC Seaside cruise ship left only to be replaced by another MSC cruise ship. This didn't sit well from our exploration point of view so cultural actives were replaced with a dinghy trip down the Ciane river accessible from the sea and barely visible - only noticeable by a channel of withie sticks (tall twigs or branches) and a shallow sand bar. Once over the bar the river deepens and comes alive with chirping birds, fish, various fauna and flora and papyrus, tufted green reed known locally as parrucca (wig) for the shape of its head, grows in thick clumps and apparently is the largest colony of Cyperus papyrus in Europe. There's even a sailing club to stop at for refreshments. The river forks in places, is calm, peaceful and is also the home to kingfishers, dragonflies, ducks and moorhens. We were careful not to disturb the wildlife motoring on tick over but a canoe would have been ideal. The pleasure and adventure of seeing how far you can safely get without going aground or puncturing the dinghy came to an end once we started to enter stagnant water and had to manoeuvre around some huge boulders.
A dinghy trip up the Ciane made for a real change and can be recommended as an ideal way to spend a few hours so thank you fellow winter liveaboards Steve, Annette and Gus off yacht Cordelia for the recommendation.
For more information...
The Ciane is a short river in southern Sicily, Italy. It flows into the Ionian Sea near Syracuse, after a run of 8 kilometres (5 mi), at a common mouth with the name, deriving from the Greek cyanos ("azure"), is connected to the myth of Anapos and the nymph Cyane. On its banks are present spontaneous grows of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), probably sent to Hiero II of Syracuse by the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The area is now protected as part of the Natural Preserve of Fiume Ciane and Saline di Siracusa, created in 1984.
Total distance from Portopalo to Siracusa: 29.39 nautical miles
Total distance this season: 60.77 nautical miles