Sailing Italy has been.... Challenging.
Harsh wind and waves, unbearable heat, an engine problem, ongoing health issues and the high prices of marinas have all made the last six weeks difficult. Oh, and I forgot about the woman who chopped off the tip of her finger in the anchor chain. I had to be a nurse at a remote anchorage :( I know, poor us, sailing the Med. But you try it.
Celebrating our last night before Greece!
Although southern Italy has many beautiful and historic sights, the coast on the bottom of the boot in Calabria is rather nondescript, mostly flat, and the area gets temperatures above 100f many days in summer.
I wasn't too happy with David when he insisted on anchoring us off this coast, in the middle of nowhere, to wait for more favorable weather. Gusts of wind were raising uncomfortable seas, and we knew it would get worse rounding the cape into the Gulf of Taranto. The only marina in this remote corner of Italy was abandoned and silted up, and our Italian Waters Pilot book told an alarming story of a boat capsizing, attempting to enter it. So that was out. But at least to be closer to some kind of town!
It was so hot! Hot and depressing really. I was worried that my sickness would come back and tried to cool off in the water. But it was murky and not inviting. Eventually we ventured onto land and sought out a bank and grocery store, which we found after a couple of kilometer walk along a two lane highway. Walking back was treacherous and exhausting, and I was mad at David for putting us through this. We could have anchored closer to civilization!
The Straits of Messina. Famous for whirlpools, squalls, and six headed monsters who like to eat sailors. We made it through, but not without some drama. The boat went from almost nine knots to 0.0 in sixty seconds. The engine gave an inexplicable alarm. I got seasick, and I almost never do. The sky was smoky. The inky water full of malevolent faces. But we made it 😉
It all happened fast. Broad reach with just a reefed jib going almost 9 knots in about 35 knots of winds. Confused seas bouncing us every which way. Then David looks up from the cabin to see what I'm doing cause the boat comes to a standstill. In seconds the engine alarm goes off (for no reason). It was eerie!
For anyone who thinks distance sailing is all fun adventure... We made a ten hour motor sail today, noisy, hot and monotonous. Broken up by visiting dolphins and boat chores!
Rewarded with seeing Tropea, Italy. 200 steep steps to a fascinating old town. Then back to anchor over soft sand and clear water.
Tropea wasn't a town I had ever heard of. Down towards the tip of the boot, south of Naples, it has a population of only about 6500. A beautiful historic village jutting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a blinding white sand beach under the stunning cliff that holds the city. Legend says it was founded by Hercules, who is honored in the naming of the main square, Piazza Ercole.
We climbed the million steep steps for an amazing view and fascinating architecture, surrounded by Italians and other Europeans. (Tropea seems to be off the radar for Americans at this point) I was sorry we didn't have more time to explore the area, and when we sailed away I saw Medieval hilltop cities among the vineyards, walled and ancient. I know that if I ever revisit Italy that's where I'm headed.
I watch the moon cycle through its phases and I can't believe we've been in Italy for a month already.
After the Bay of Naples we are glad to sail south to small towns like Marina di Camerota. Beautiful beach, friendly people who are descendants of South Americans, the old man at the negozio tells me.
"Caracas is my town" he says in Spanish. Families walk the mergellina in the evening. Good homemade food. No tourists.
We should be at Stromboli in the next few days.