Day 5: Rocella Ionica to Crotone Nord anchorage - 67 miles.
This was one of our longest travel days, at 11 hours. Compared with the shin of Italy, the water off this coast, and the land as well, on the back of the toe, was nearly deserted. There weren't any castles or many old structures to enjoy as we went past, as there'd been on the shin. We motored past the Golfo di Squillace, known for its gusty winds, though it was mellow today. As we rounded Capo Colonne, we heard some explosions. We weren't being fired at; it was just the Italians enjoying some daytime fireworks, as they tend to do. Beyond Cape Colonne were several large towers, which I later learned were platforms for extracting natural gas from beneath the seafloor.
Crotone was the next town we came to. Like the rest of the towns we'd passed on this part of the coast, it didn't look like much. I learned from the Italian Waters Pilot that Crotone was once a "glorious city, part of Magna Graecia." Nothing much remains of its former glory, except for a column from one ancient temple (a sad sight, which we saw when we motored past),
The lone column (not my photo)
the rest of the temple having been used in building the Porto Nuovo marina breakwater (also according to the Pilot). This monstrous construct stretches for about half a kilometer, and is about twenty feet high.
I also learned that Pythagoras had lived in Crotone in the 5th Century BC, where, according to the Pilot, "he developed his ascetic-mystic-vegetarian-reincarnation philosophy here for some 30 years before he was ousted along with the oligarchy he supported." Ouch.
We rounded the end of the giant breakwater, glided into the calm basin of water, called Crotone Nord by the Navily users, and put the anchor down. Fronted by a highway, railroad tracks, industrial buildings, and - based on the faint scent carried on the light breeze - possibly also a sewage treatment plant somewhere nearby, this anchorage was not particularly scenic. But it had good holding and was in the right place for us. On this trip, those were our two main objectives when selecting an anchorage.
39 18.328N,16 22.2228E (paste or type this into Google Maps to see where we anchored)
Day 6: Crotone Nord to San Gregorio - across the Golfo di Taranto - 74 miles.
Today's portion of our journey took us across the Golfo di Taranto, from the back of Italy's toe, across the arch of its foot to its heel. It was also our longest day, at more than 11 hours. As we headed away from the coast, and before our cell service went out of range, we enjoyed a WhatsApp call with several of our cruising friends, who had gathered for a "bon voyage" party, before they left wintry Whangarei for the warmth of the tropics.
About halfway across the 70-mile-wide gulf, we were out of sight of land, a situation we hadn't experienced for quite awhile, but one with which we're both comfortable and familiar. It felt like old times. Also about halfway, pimped into action by a puff of wind from the right direction, we put the mainsail up, along with the jib. The wind lasted long enough for us to decide to turn the motors off, and then maybe another ten minutes, before it petered out. After a little while, we put the sails away, turned on the engines, and started making forward progress again.
Aiming for the town of Santa Maria di Leuca, perched on the tip of the heel, we'd planned to drop our anchor in the area just outside of the marina entrance. Well. When we arrived, late in the afternoon, we saw that the area had been reduced by more than half by a string of buoys, and the available area had several boats in it already. The water was only about 10-12 feet deep, and the bottom was mostly rocks. We tried twice, to drop our anchor in one of the small sandy patches, but it didn't have enough room to dig in, with the rocks around, and with the area being so small, we couldn't let out the proper amount of chain anyway.
So we tucked our anchor away and left. I'd already found some backup anchorages on Navily, the nearest one being a place called San Gregorio, reported to be "a lovely big anchorage with lots of sand" a couple of miles up the coast. Eric steered Awildian in that direction, and we arrived a few minutes later. This anchorage was exactly as advertised, and we dropped Awildian's anchor in 16 feet of clear, turquoise water onto a smooth, sandy bottom. Arriving as we did, late on a Sunday afternoon, the bay was populated by a couple dozen motorboats, but we were pretty sure they were locals out to enjoy the bay on this sunny day, and would leave after sunset. Which they did, leaving us alone in the middle of this gorgeous anchorage. 39 48.377N,18 19.246E
San Gregorio's beautiful turquoise water with rippled sand, taken from Awildian's transom
Day 7: San Gregorio all day!
This morning I awoke to the sound of thunder. (How far off I sat and wondered, thank you Bob Seger). The answer was: just under a mile. Though the lightning didn't come our way, the morning was cloudy, but it burned off before noon, leaving another warm, sunny day. Since the wind in the Adriatic Sea, where we were heading, was forecast to be from the north for the next two days, we weren't going anywhere, so we decided to catch up on some chores, such as grocery shopping.
With Google Maps, we'd found a supermercato in the little town behind the beach. I grabbed my sunnies and my sun hat, put Rolly in the dinghy, Eric and I got in, and off we went looking for a place to drop me ashore. It took a bit of doing, since all the nice, sandy spots had swimmers, but we eventually chose a spot and came in very slowly. I took Rolly and walked up the beach to the street, then up the hill to the location that Google Maps had indicated. There was a building there, and it had been a store at one time, but it definitely wasn't now. Hmm. Rather than give up, I thought I'd just go a bit farther up the street - there seemed to be other kinds of commerce, pizza restaurants and such, so I thought there just might be a grocery store.
There was! The Supermercato La Centopietre (100 Steps) was fully open and operational. I went in and did my shopping, taking my time in the air conditioned space. As I was checking out, I said hello to the man at the register, and attempted (badly, apparently) to make some small talk. He smiled and asked me if I preferred to speak in French or English (clearly, Italian wasn't going to work with me). I went with English and we had a nice chat as he tallied my items. He told me his name was Antonio, and he asked me where I was from. When I said that I live on a boat, which is anchored off the beach at San Gregorio, he asked me how I was going to get my groceries onto the boat. I said I would walk back down the hill, across the beach, call my husband, who would come in the dinghy. We'd put the rolling cart on the dinghy and go back to the boat. From then on, Antonio was very keen to help me with the groceries, and wouldn't let me say no to his driving me back to the beach, and helping to load the groceries onto the dinghy. I thanked him and called Eric, to tell him to bring the dinghy. We continued our chat as he drove me down the hill, and at the beach was really helpful as he held the dinghy's painter while I loaded the cart, and got in. What a nice man! So if you are ever in the town of San Gregorio, on the heel of Italy, be sure to stop into Supermercato La Centopietre, buy some groceries or maybe just an ice cream and say hello to Antonio.
Eric and I decided to go back to the marina and top up Awildian's diesel tanks, as the wind was calm which would make it easier, we'd used quite a few liters of the liquid gold since our last top up, and we had a long way yet to go. Of course, the way these things work, a bit of wind had come up by the time we got there, but Eric was confident in his ability to put Awildian right where he wanted him. Which was a good thing, because this fuel dock, in addition to being short, had a pile of riprap not far from one end, and a boat stern-tied to the dock at the other. True enough, Eric rotated Awildian and backed him into the available space, with the front part of the boat overhanging the fuel dock in the direction of the riprap. I'd called the marina office on the phone and asked them to send someone, who came and caught our lines. We filled up Awildian's tanks (many liters, at 2.06 euro per liter this time), and motored back to lovely San Gregorio, with that happy, satisfied feeling that comes from having full diesel tanks (though an emptier wallet).
The pile of rocks near the fuel dock had my attention. They were underwater too.
Early in the evening, s/v Vitamin Sea, with Marcella and Dan, whom we'd met in Salerno and who were also on their way to Croatia, came into San Gregorio and dropped their anchor nearby. We invited them over for ginner, and Eric even provided transportation in our dinghy, so they wouldn't have to deploy theirs. It was nice to have some people over. It had been quite awhile.
Day 8: San Gregorio to Torre dell'Orso - 36 miles.
We'd planned to stay in San Gregorio for another day, but when the wind began to shift to the west in the morning, signalling (we thought) the predicted end to the north wind and its shift to the south, and with favorable wind reports coming in from Marcella and Dan, who'd left a couple of hours before us, we pulled up our anchor and said goodbye to San Gregorio. Rounding the tip of Italy's heel and entering the Adriatic Sea, we saw on shore the grand watercourse (dry most of the time now except for special occasions) and its adjoining stairs - known as Mussolini's Stairs - having been ordered to be built by the former dictator.
Mussolini's watercourse and stairs (not my photo)
Nearby stood the tall, some would say phallic (I'm sure I did) Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca lighthouse, standing proudly erect at 159 feet.
Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca
For the first hour and a half, the wind was mostly from behind us, making for an easy ride. But then it became clear that the north wind wasn't finished yet: first from Marcella's reports and then from the fact that it was blowing in our faces. Beginning at about noon, we beat into it for the rest of the day. Fortunately, the waves weren't more than a meter, so we didn't pound much, but it still wasn't fun to be travelling into a 20 knot headwind. At 2pm we decided to take a break. We headed toward shore and pulled into a pretty little anchorage named Baia dell'Orte, where we hung out for a couple of hours, relaxing until the north wind began to abate, and we headed out again.
We wanted to push on as far as we could, as the anchorages in this part of Italy didn't offer much shelter from the wind and seas, and we were also trying to get to one of Italy's official departure ports as soon as possible. As we headed north again, I consulted Navily to find some suitable anchorages for us. I found one named Torre dell'Orso (Tower of the Bear) that we reached in the late afternoon.
Wow, what a stunning spot! The anchorage was a semicircular basin ringed by tall sandstone cliffs, along and over which birds of all kinds were swooping and calling. We dropped Awildian's anchor in 18 feet of clear turquoise water, and as soon as it was set and the bridle was on, I grabbed my binoculars.
Some of the cliffs at Torre dell'Orso
Jackdaws (a new bird for me), swifts, even pigeons were nesting in the cliff's many cracks and crevices. I had a great time birdwatching until it got too dark to see the birds anymore.
40 16.53N,18 25.95E
Day 9: Torre dell'Orso to Monopoli (Cantiere Nautico Carpentinox marina) - 70 miles.
Beginning at 6 am, today was another long travelling day, made even longer by six hours of beam-on, rolly seas. We'd decided to clear out of Italy from the small port of Monopoli, which was about 70 miles north of us, so I'd contacted a small marina there to book a berth, as a strong north wind (maestral, mistral, or maestro, depending on where you are) was scheduled to blow for a few days. The wind was actually behind us for part of the day! We put up the jib and got some free speed out of it for awhile...until the wind realized its mistake and went back to being from in front of us again.
Along the way, we passed the big, busy shipping port of Brindisi, where we kept a very close eye on the activity of the ships in the area, and also our AIS. One of the cargo ships that had been anchored outside the port began moving as we went by it. It passed behind us, then travelled parallel to us maybe a quarter mile away, to seaward, off our starboard hull, slowly overtaking us. Then, without any warning at all, it began to turn in front of us.
As the calculated distance of our CPA (closest point of approach) shrank from half a mile, to a quarter mile, to a few meters, I called the ship on VHF16, and asked the man who answered if he saw us off his port bow. He said that he did see us, but he was restricted to entering the port only in the lane provided, so we needed to stay out of his way. Was he going to tell us, before he wiped Awildian along the side of his ship? Geez. We stopped and held station as the ship passed way too close in front of us.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. When we were about an hour from Monopoli, I called Giuseppe, my contact at the marina, on Whats App, as he'd asked me to do. He told me that we would see him on the dock when we arrived. When we were nearly at the marina, we deployed the fenders and the dock lines, ready for our first Med-mooring docking experience.
Of course, we were treated to a cross-wind docking breeze as Eric backed Awildian into the berth between two other boats, but he held his course well and eased into the space. On the dock were Giuseppe and two other men, ready to catch our stern lines. As soon as they'd tied them to rings on the dock, Giuseppe and one of his men swarmed on board to begin the process of getting Awildian's bow cleats tied to the submerged ropes that ran from the dock to cement blocks sunk into the ground in front of each side the boat. In the meantime, we kept Awildian's engines in forward idle (more when needed), to keep his stern away from the dock.
Eventually, when everyone was confident that Awildian was secure in his berth, Giuseppe and his men went back to work in the boatyard. Eric and I had an arrival beer and celebrated the end of our trip around the lower leg of Italy. 40 57.401N,17 18.117E
A view of the Cantiere Nautico Carpentinox Marina in Monopoli from Awildian's back porch