|Our first stop in Sicilia was the commercial port of
Milazzo (actually we anchored outside - off the town. It's
not the most attractive place in the world, being home to Italy's major
oil terminal, but this did manage to light the sky in a way that Stromboli
had failed to do. We were also there long enough to witness the
annual trip out in a boat for the local saint.
Milazzo was in reality just an overnight
stop to catch our breath before following the route of Odysseus through the
Straits of Messina. Odysseus had to chose between the monster
Charybdis on one side who sucked the sea dry 3 times a day swallowing any
ships along with the water and Scylla on the other side who with 12 legs
and six necks swept sailors off the decks of their ships as they sailed
past. They're not there any more, but on one side is still the
Charybdis current and on the other is the town of Scilla. It's a
fantastic thing to be sailing through legends.
The Admiralty pilot says that an earthquake in the 19th
century rearranged the sea bed in the Straits so that they are now more
placid than in Odysseus's time. They're still quite exciting
though. With the wind blowing against just the residue of a neaps tide it was white water rafting all the way - more than the
had coped with the gales in Biscay, was able to handle. We motor sailed our
way through. It certainly wouldn't have been much fun in a lateen
rigged boat that couldn't sail to windward and without an engine.
Odysseus though didn't have to cope with the afternoon ferry rush hour
between Messina and Reggio.
We holed up in the marina at Reggio di Calabria to shelter from forecasted gales and here we met
68 year old Saverio.
He's mentioned by Heikell in the pilot. "Sometime ormegiatoro,
sometime taxi driver and supplier of victuals to cruisers". He
stopped by our boat and we struck up a conversation in broken Italian (he
speaks no English). "Come to lunch with me tomorrow" he says.
We know this one - local taxi driver takes you to his
mate's restaurant, we eat bad very overpriced food, taxi driver eats for
free, we probably detour via another mate's gift/carpet shop on the way
Gracia pero no gracia Saverio. He insists.
"At a restaurant?" I ask. "No, no at my
home, I have fish" he replies.
I say I'll ask Lindy. Lindy says "Absolutely
not." I go back to Saverio and say "OK". - How did
We were duly collected at 1230 the following day by Saverio in his
taxi and off we go. We pass a scruffy block of flats where Saverio
tells us he lives. So why aren't we stopping? Uh oh!. Finally
we are taken
down towards the sea where he has a large double garage. You drive in one
end and the other overlooks a very scruffy piece of shore. There
is a cooker at one side, a fridge, a shower/toilet and an upstairs
gallery. Near the beach end (still inside the garage) is a small table and
plastic chairs - a large RIB sits on a hydraulic ramp above the table.
We are told
that there are 3 women nearby on the sand, one is his wife/girlfriend, who
is Polish. So
we sit and have a beer while Saverio stirs a pasta fish sauce and checks
the swordfish steaks in the oven. We are eating our spaghetti when the
ladies return in bikinis - one in tears, we never worked out why. We are introduced
(though not to the crying one) and then Saverio leaves to
take her home. We're left with ?wife and her sister, who turn out to be Russian
not Polish - the sort of detail you might be expected to know about your
wife. They speak no English so we converse in mutually broken
Italian while Saverio is away and we get on famously. They arrived from Russia 18 months ago,
we assume they're illegal. They tell us they provide domestic
services and we didn't pursue exactly what line of services. The
sister is funding her 20 year old daughter's education in Russia, but
thinks she may never see her again. She can't go back and her daughter
will never be able to afford the fare to come to Italy - there's a brief
moment of sadness and then Saverio returns. We eat swordfish and drink homemade wine
followed by cheese, salami and fruit. We are then driven into the
mountains for a tour before returning to the harbour. We've eaten well,
had a fantastic day and not a penny has changed hands. Shame we didn't have
the camera with us.
The following day Saverio does our shopping for us. He delivers
it all to the boat and gives us the receipt from the supermarket. As
far as we can tell the only profit he makes from the whole transaction is
that the wine he provides is his own homemade stuff we drank at his
garage. The day we left Saverio threw a bag of mixed fresh
bread and 2 croissants onto the deck before 7am. Again no charge!
We then faced the south coast of Italy with few charted anchorages or
marinas and also the Golfo di Squillace. This is on the ball of the foot
of Italy and backed by a lowish strip of land in an otherwise mountainous
country, so any northwesterly wind in the Med tends to funnel through into
As the wind was very light we
decided to go from the Straits of Messina and cross the Gulf at
night (120 miles) to arrive late morning at an anchorage. Well - the
weather started quietly enough but within 2 hours we had 2 reefs in the
main, wind against current and lots of spray. The wind varied between 10
knots and 38 knots, gusting unexpectedly so we motor sailed, sailed with
main and staysail, had all reefs in and out at various times all through
the night - very confusing and quite tiring.
Arrived at Le Castella, motored around to find a decent
anchorage, bounced and dragged our newly painted keel over a very uneven
rocky bottom. Much signaling from a local fishing boat, who was
trying to tell us it was too shallow - We know! Round Capo Rizzuto
and anchor in sand near a small local holiday resort. Literally
minutes after anchoring there's a resounding crash, which we ignore (?BBQ
lid fallen off again).
The following day we discover our davits have snapped (these suspend the
dinghy over the stern of the boat). We are very glad they waited for
us to anchor and didn't snap in 40 knots of wind in Squillace. We
jury rig a repair and add davits to the job list.
Next day we made our way to Crotone -
avoiding regatta to one side and gas platforms to the other and anchored
off the beach. Next morning, as always, I check the engine
oil. The dip stick is dry - horror! I refill and start the
engine, to find that we're blowing oil out of the
exhaust. Bad news, but we're extremely lucky to have discovered the
problem before the sump ran completely dry and we seized the engine.
So into Crotone harbour to find a mechanic. The problem turns out to
be a blown oil cooler and the local guy can refurbish ours - this is the
poorest part of Italy and they're used to patching things up rather than
just fitting a new one. Good news. He can also remanufacture
our davits - though because of the thickness of the local accent we don't
understand that this involves sending someone 200 kilometers over the
mountain on an all day trip to obtain the material. This in turn
leads to a disagreement over the bill. But in the end all is sorted
out amicably and we end up with some very strong (though slightly
agricultural) davits. Crotone is a slightly dusty, but friendly place and its people are similar. This is a different world from the
wealthy north of Italy.
As a finale there is a grand firework display at the
end of the harbour wall, less that a hundred yards from the boat. We
have no idea what it is for, we just sit on deck and watch it all happen
directly over our heads. Our Italian neighbour, with large power boat (we
think he's a northerner) is less impressed and is out the following day
with a tape measure - there is presumably a regulation about the distance
of fireworks from his boat. I'm sure this would be an important
thing to be aware of in Milano, but suspect it will cut little ice here!