2014 Log: Italy & Islands

18 July 2014
06 July 2014 | Trapani, Sicily
02 July 2014 | Ragusa to Trapani, Sicily
21 June 2014 | San Vito lo Capo, Sicily
04 June 2014 | Padova and Venice
03 June 2014 | Marina di Ragusa, Italy
01 September 2013
31 August 2013
29 August 2013
13 August 2013
27 July 2013
25 July 2013 | (In 200 BC, that is!)
24 July 2013 | Samos, Greece
24 July 2013

Livorno – a Very Pleasant Surprise

27 July 2014
Frankly, we had low expectations for Livorno which has a reputation as an industrial port where cruise ships disgorge thousands of tourists who simply transfer to buses to visit nearby Pisa and Florence. But our friends Vincenzo and Francesco (you remember them from Sicily, right?) had strongly recommended we tour the old city by dinghy and likened it to Venice ...without the gondola's. So ever game Pat and Keith of Frances Louise and we boarded Sangaris' "Private Gondola" (aka dinghy) and set off on a surprisingly cool tour. We wound our way through the "Quartiere Storico della Venezia, past waterfront homes and businesses. Livorno is Venice-like, yet different in that the canals are all lined with private boats and it is more of a real, working city, than a tourist destination.

Here's the Fortezza Vecchia (the Old Fort) on the edge of town as you enter the canal system that winds its way to the "New Fort" on its man-made island in the center of town, with impressive statuary along the way. The arch in the bottom left is a ½ mile long canal-tunnel that runs below the Piazza della Repubblica.

At top right is the same arch, looking back from our "gondola" inside the tunnel, and along the way are the overhead fancy wrought-iron ventilation grates. Finally, back at our dock, Katherine gives a big "thumbs up" with the ormeggiatori Stefano. Katherine had called ahead a few days earlier to arrange our dockage, as Livorno, being the big-ship port it is, is not quite like pulling into a marina. Stefano and his partner Marco were amazing. From actually calling us two or three times to check on our arrival progress, to escorting us through the harbor after clearing our entry with the Port Authorities, to scooting around in their tender to handle the laid mooring lines plus a myriad of other accommodations from free bikes to recommendations on where go in town. Great guys!

Cruiser's note: Livorno's Molo Mediceo [marina] operated by "Lusben" can be reached on channel 74 and provides excellent service. We were stern-to for two nights @ 42.70 Euros/ night. Free bikes, picnic tables with sun umbrellas and even a barbeque loaded with charcoal. Rubbish and heads convenient.

BIG NEWS: Our next stop is Porto Venere, where we'll not only explore the Cinque Terre, but also start staging Sangaris for Genoa and loading her aboard the transport ship Stadiongracht for a trip back across the Atlantic. Yep, you read it right! After some 10 years in the Med, we're heading for America! Stay tuned.

“Able was I ere I saw Elba” …

25 July 2014
... as the Napoleonic palindrome goes. Elba was called "the largest, richest and most beautiful island of the Archipelago Toscano", by the Admiralty Pilot, and impressive it is. We sailed into Porto Ferraio, an ancient source of iron ore on the east coast that rises above the harbor shown here. We're anchored out and took the shot from the boat.

Hiking up the cobbled streets we were rewarded with this view here, overlooking NE Elba, the mainland Tuscany coast and the straights through which we'd entered the harbor. The ferry you see is one of the many that frequently cross from Corsica and various Italian coastal cities. The tower lighthouse tops one of the old forts (Fortezza Stella) and the nautical nature of the place is highlighted by the delightful stained glass sextant at the ferry port.

Continuing the panorama from Fort Stella is the south view overlooking the town and small inner harbor - small by modern standards, but picture dozens of square rigged ships scurrying to and fro with goods from all over the Med only a hundred years ago and spilling out into the larger harbor, where, way out in the distant past the ferry docks on the top right are anchored cruisers, Sangaris included.

This was the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's "exile" on Elba, and celebrations were all about, with the distinct and subtle tri-cornered hat logo to be seen everywhere. Napoleon is still a local hero and is credited with bringing (dragging?) Elba into the modern world. His "in-town" house is the yellow building Craig's standing by (his main estate was a few miles out of town) and the surrounding neighborhood is unique.
We spent two nights anchored off Porto Ferraio and then sailed around the point to be near a better swimming area and calm anchorage for a barbeque with Pat & Keith.

Bastia, Corsica, France

18 July 2014
Port Toga is adjacent to Bastia Harbor (you can zoom in on the map to the right) and has been the home port for Frances Louise for the past few seasons - there are the two sister ships at their slips. We were welcomed and cared for like old friends by Louis, who is hands-down the most likable, gracious and colorful "marinero" we've encountered - even to the point of bringing us fresh tomatoes, onions and mint from his home garden the morning after checking in. A super stop!

On to Corsica, France

18 July 2014
Our sail from Sardegna, Italy to Corsica, France took us across Les Bouches de Bonafacio, the channel between Sardegna and Corsica that is fringed by islands, rocks, reefs and shoal water on both sides. These straights are a notoriously gusty stretch that amplifies the winds from the Golfo de Leon as they funnel through the passage. Five years before we tried it twice, turning back each time as the winds hit 50+ knots and we stayed happily exploring Sardegna. But the wind was settled and in our favor, so Sangaris easily sailed onward to Porto Vecchio, Corsica where friends Pat & Keith Boothby were eagerly awaiting our arrival (that’s them in left pic) . July 16 marked the first of many nights when the “Sangaris” & “Frances Louise” crews would share great meals, stories and laughter together.
Cruisers’ note: Large anchorage with great holding in mud; grocery and shops in waterfront town, old town is uphill but worth the walk or the “Petit Train” ride!

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A couple of days after our “P&K @ PV” reunion, we sailed our sisterships around the corner to another comfortable anchorage with a “rook” tower marking the entrance to Baie Piranellu Bay. More swimming and fun followed by a scrumptious lunch of fresh pesche de mare ashore at Pat’s favorite “Vig Vog” restaurant. (Lest you go nuts with the French-English dictionary, they told us Vig Vog doesn’t mean a thing in any language – just a fun name though "Ooh Lah Lah" would work.)

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Sardegna's SE Coast Greets Us After an Overnight Sail from Trapani

16 July 2014
And what a dramatic and beautiful red granite explosion of mountains and sea-cliffs! Our arrival after 34 hours of sailing 181 miles was this aptly named scene of Capo Bellavista near Arbatax, Sardegna where we found a great anchorage to swim and then rest for the night. As we continued north the next morning the scenery was even more spectacular so we 'hugged' the coastline to better appreciate the awesome views.

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In the photo above a large powerboat is motoring close to shore and gives some perspective of the height and mass of the rocky pinnacles and rugged terrain. We completed a 60 mile trek to Ottiolu, south of Olbia and had a calm and cool night with a beautiful sunset (below) before continuing north to Corsica early the next morning

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Ten Trapani Treats

06 July 2014 | Trapani, Sicily
How 'bout some quick pics - here are ten from the delightful town of Trapani on Sicily's west coast. Up on the hill is tiny Erice with a fantastic view of the harbor where we had a superb anchorage just off the marinas. Excellent protection from all winds, good holding and little traffic. It's an appealing old town that blends African Tunisian elements with Italian tradition.

Trapani owes its prosperity to its former reputation for coral and the salt pans in the marshes which used to be pumped full of sea water by the windmills and today are a lucrative industry. You can see how vast the pans are. And, of course, there's fishing - this old boy immediately latched onto Katherine when she went into his frozen locker to ask for some ice. He seemed much more interested in heating things up, but the tuna were magnificent. Below are shots of the center of the fishing action.

Here's a view of the picturesque beach and apartments to the north of the harbor in the old town.

Scenes around town.

Julia and Vincenzo came down for a day from their place in Castelluzzo near Capo lo San Vito and we explored Trapani's Centro Storico with its 16th century churches and the impressive town hall. Of course, delectable Sicilian pastries abounded - these being marzipan delights.

Couldn't resist this classic "old town" scene with its colorful awnings and "real life" feel.

In the afternoon Vicenzo and Julia took us for a real treat to meet their friends who run a family cheese making shop called "Ingardia". While Craig and Vicenzo check out the delicious offerings, Katherine met the family, from Grandma, quite chic in her "Boca" glasses to daughter and granddaughter.

And while the women were inside running the shop, Dad was tending to his fresh tomatoes. Julia demonstrates how not to eat one, namely by taking a bite - you've got to pop it in your mouth whole. Craig bit his and embarrassingly squirted juice all over the worker's back - but he took it in good humor and we all had a great laugh.

We capped the evening off with a wonderful dinner at the restaurant next to the Museo del Sale - Salt Museum - with it's restored windmill. Friends of Julia and Vicenzo joined us and the girls posed for some last pics.

Finally Underway!

02 July 2014 | Ragusa to Trapani, Sicily
The end of June marked the end of our contract at Marina di Ragusa and with that deadline we were 'full'-on checking items off the to-do list before sailing. One of the last jobs was dinghy repair and that involved sanding down (roughing up) the hypalon surface, cleaning it thoroughly and applying a 2 part rubber paint, with the goal of solving pesky air and water leaks. As you can see from our paint pattern, some areas did not get a new rubber coating ... we ran out of paint! But after 5 days curing, the dinghy showed no sign of leaks and, with its 'unique' paint design it is never going to be selected for theft!

One more shot at getting the fridge fixed (unsuccessfully), some minor provisioning done and lots of cleaning and polishing so Sangaris looked pretty sharp and, we daresay, was much improved from the dusty appearance when we arrived in May. Oh yeah, did we mention we had to put the engine back in the engine room, too? It was worth the effort because we finally found a pesky oil leak that had been with us for months.

July 2, then, was our departure from MdR after some wind came up at 11am and we sailed for 3 1/2 hours and then motored 3 1/2 hours to Licata. Good news - no oil leak; bad news - the main battery terminal post to the starting motor solenoid broke so we figured we'd stop at the marina rather than anchor out. Next morning Craig pulled the starting motor and a marino drove him around town all morning looking for an auto electric shop to fix it. Three shops just gave the famous Sicilian shoulder shrug and said they couldn't fix it, but for 500Euros they could get a new one. Wrong answer, so Craig took it back to the boat, fabricated a new contactor-post from a steel bolt and it now works perfectly. Ah, "sail 'n fix", "sail ''n fix", mates.

From Licata to Sciacca it was 49 miles of "Motorterranean" from 10 am to 6pm and having seen some of the colorful seaside town and checked out its small harbor when we took the land trip a couple weekends before, we decided take advantage of a very light (and unusual) east wind and anchor out for the night, just west of the breakwall. Even though we'd met a local sailor who had shown us one of two Lega Navale's pontoons allowing visiting yachts (we think at 50-60 euro/night), we thought we were making a good choice. But with dead calm later in the night, it was uncomfortably rolly from a sea swell and we weighed anchor by 6am for Mazara.

Our travel day to Mazara del Vallo was not only shorter (1/2 the miles) but favorable NW wind allowed us to sail close-hauled for about 3 hours of our 6 hour trip. This time we went into the harbor and took a slip at the second Lega Navale where we were waved by very friendly Julio. The afternoon was very hot and, with our frig having lost all its cooling, we were happy to have the use of the club's cooler, take an afternoon siesta and after sunset, venture out for an evening walk and delicious fish couscous dinner.

Mazara del Vallo is a harbor port with a longstanding history and importance under the Phoenicians, Greeks and then with African traders. We learned that even today many of its inhabitants are Tunisian by origin and the Tunisian district, just behind the fishing port, was the first area we explored (left pics). The streets and cafes were relatively quiet even at 8pm on a Saturday night, background conversations and great aromas seemed to be all coming from local family kitchens. But the scene soon changed as we entered the medieval center of the city where many people were gathered in the Piazza della Repubblica (center top photo). There we admired a number of exquisite buildings including the Seminario, the Palazzo Episcopale and the town's largely baroque cathedral with its beautiful green domes. Mazara was still a-buzz at midnight when we followed the seafront's Lungomare Mazzini home to Sangaris.
Cruisers note:at a Lega Navale, 2nd in on the east side, stern-to facing west for 70 euro/night ... protected and with water /elec included, but harbor itself was not clean; we were told recently fouled with diesel from a fishing boat ... this time we should have anchored out in the totally calm area just east of the harbor, oh well!... see pic at bottom of flat, calm anchorage.

Egads the Egadis are beautiful! (we agree Gail!)

Offshore from Trapani lie the three Egadi Islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. Their remote location and beautiful coasts (10-19 miles from Trapani) lure nature lovers, diving enthusiasts and marine archaeologists. For this reason, they have been declared a marine reserve in order to protect their flora and fauna. The map above shows the island of Favignana and three zones with different levels of protection, allowing anchoring in some regions, required buoy moorings in others and sail-by on in the most restricted areas.

The Egadis used to survive on fishing and the cutting of tufa for building stone. Today tourism does much to fill the coffers. This area of Sicily was noted for its tuna, and the island of Favgnana had a very large fishery that (under the entrepreneurial Florio family who owned the islands from 1874 to just before WWll) had an excellent reputation. The annual mattanza, a tradition of catching and killing huge shoals of tuna, takes place over a few days between Mid-May and mid-June. A photo in a slide bellows shows a dramatic (yet clearly dated) scene of some pretty aggressive tuna fisherman.

The Egadi Island of Favignana was our destination from Mazara as we bypassed wine tasting in the historical town of Marsala along the way. Again we were going upwind, but the 50/50 rule applied and we were lucky to combine reefed close-hauled sailing with motor sailing for the six hour trip. We looked at many different areas on the south coast and selected an approved anchoring zone off Lido Burrone. By early evening we were alone as daytrippers returned to Marsala and Trapani and, after a cool (73 degree) swim, we enjoyed a sunset cockpit dinner with gorgeous scenic views of jagged rocky coves, turquoise water highlighted on small sandy beaches and, above us a fort shrouded in a cloud donut.

With a light southerly building and a forecast for more, we rounded the east coast of the island in the morning and chose to drop anchor right in the port harbor, in 3 meters of excellent holding sand near Praia and Palazzo Florio. We were only three boats for most of the day but the bay held 10 by evening, and that seemed about the max. We stayed aboard for a while after checking the anchor in order to observe the busy daytripper tour boats and ferry arrivals and departures, especially to evaluate the effect of their wakes. Although it was a pretty constant 'traffic' flow, most boats slowed sufficiently before entering the little harbor and were well practiced at maneuvering with each other and some private yachts that chose med mooring on the free wall.

The next day, again with a wind shift to the west and a threat of a strong blow from the same direction, we moved around to take a mooring on the east coast in a protected area called "Blue Marino" (24 euro for 24 hours). Most boats followed the moorings rules, but a half dozen or so local powerboats anchored close to shore and scooted off before the reserve polizia came to collect fees. The photo below shows the rock wall we faced in Blue Marino with its interesting caves and carvings and Sangaris tied to a mooring with a strong current holding us northwards ~ we had a challenging "in place" swimming workout next to the boat! Most boats wisely had lines with floating life preservers for swimmers.

In the charming town of Favignana that afternoon and the next day we found lovely bakeries, cafes, specialty food shops featuring salted tuna and capers and a mercato dei pesci that provided ample ice for us, as well as squid and the fresh tuna Craig's enjoying for lunch. Ah, life on a slant!

BIG Six-O in Cap-O (San Vito)

21 June 2014 | San Vito lo Capo, Sicily
We received a delightful invitation before we left the States to go to a birthday party when we got back to Sicily. It was to be for our friend Vincenzo Sparavigna (yes, that's an Italian name). He and Julia winter in Ft Lauderdale and were heading to their summer place on the northwest tip of Sicily as we left for Sangaris. So for the weekend of the auspicious event we rented a car, planning to explore a bit along the way.
First stop was on the coastal route at Licata where we checked out the Marina and the friendly staff referred us to a hilltop B&B - the top left two pictures are of the beautiful grounds. Continuing on the next morning we explored the amazing historic site of Agrigento, with its Valley of the Temples - one of Italy's finest temple complexes from the Greek era in the 8th century BC. At bottom right is a plaza in the town of Agrigento near the Temple site.

After checking out of Sciacca on the coast it was through the mountains to Castelvetrano for an excellent "authentic Sicilian" lunch, then past the amazing towns of Valderice and, up on the cliffs, Erice, until we arrived at the birthday venue near Capo. After checking into our B&B and freshening up, we were pool side with everyone for a perfect sunset. That set the stage for an extraordinary evening, lasting into the wee hours, of food, drink, music and dancing with Vincenzo, Julia and, for his 60th birthday, 60 (only!) of his friends from Sicily, Salerno, Roma, plus we and fellow Americans from Ft Lauderdale who had flown in just for the occasion - Doug and Kathy Brown with their daughter Sarah, son-in-law Jamie and grandson Noah. In the montage then, clockwise from us at poolside, are Vincenzo and his delightful daughter Claudia, then the effervescent Julia presenting Vincenzo with a memory book of sailing and other adventures. Next is Craig with Julia and Sarah. Finally, is Vincenzo proudly displaying a mermaid painting Julia had commissioned for the big event. A grand time long to be remembered, indeed.

The next day (yes, we slept in a bit - oh, OK, a lot!) gave us time to explore the spectacular area of San Vito lo Capo that you can see on the map projects dramatically into the Tyrrehenian Sea.

We wound down the day with yet another fabulous meal at the beach house that the Browns were staying at (that's Jamie and Noah on the hammock, top left) with another spectacular sunset view over the bay in front. Vincenzo's friend, Francesco, was the Chef Extrordinaire and we were again delighted with another sensational meal.

Continuing Vincenzo's birthday bacchanal, yet another friend, Gianni, chartered a 50 foot Hanse sailboat for the next day - Vincenzo definitely looks like he's enjoying it! We anchored in the bay off Macari, which had been the view from the party and where Sangaris will be anchored shortly. Amazingly, Gianni was not just skipper extraordinaire, but yet another great Italian Chef serving a Trapani special pasta: Busiata Siciliana,melanzane e pecorino - buon bellissimo!

Thank you Julia and Vincenzo for being such gracious hosts!

June in Marina di Ragusa

05 June 2014
Arriving back at MdR we were treated very well, indeed, by the Deep Blue crew, Sandra and Chris, as our refrigerator had packed it in and Deep Blue kept us in fresh food and lovely dinners together. Amongst those was Chef Chris' traditional Sicilian dish with roasted local sausage, tomatoes and lentils. We repeated it when they left, but put a "Geek" twist to it ("e" of course is that wonderful mathematical constant which you can get in T-shirts or Sausage or Napierian logarithms). Btw, that's the 3-legged Sicilian flag, in case you were wondering.

And, speaking of Euler things (you should pardon the Geek pun) here are some pics of the oily jobs during the month.

Yep, that's our "oily" engine sitting in the cockpit!

And here we are removing the jib furler to regrease it.

Vessel Name: SANGARIS
Vessel Make/Model: Amel Santorin - a 46'/14m Ketch
Crew: Katherine and Craig Briggs
In 1999, Katherine and Craig "sold up" to go cruising aboard their 46' Amel Santorin ketch "SANGARIS" and since then have sailed some 25,000 miles. Leaving Florida they headed south to the Caribbean, then west along the "Spanish Main" coast of South America to Colombia and Panama. [...]
SANGARIS's Photos - 2012 Turkey and Istanbul
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