Posted by Johnny
We made landfall on the Italian coast at 7pm on the 26th, arriving tired but elated at the harbour of Santa Maria di Leuca. Instead of paying for the marina we followed another yacht’s lead and tied up on the fishing boat quay. We left a note on the boat in case it was in the way then set out to explore the town and find pizza. Julia had been holding back on her primary food source for two months in anticipation of proper Italian pizza so the stakes were high. Our other two crew members; Dagmara and Nik were also famished. Luckily we were not disappointed. Later that evening we had a call from the port authority asking us to move Bumblebee, Julia explained in broken Italian that we’d be off at the crack of dawn and managed to haggle some extra time.
We still had a long way to go to reach Sicily so the next morning slid quietly out of the harbour as the sun began to rise and set the chart plotter for Crotone, across the Gulf of Taranto. A thirteen hour stretch and some 70 nautical miles. To pass the time we played chess, listened to music, sketched, did some laundry and prepared some mouth watering meals. While gathering in the dried laundry we discovered a bumblebee had stowed away for the crossing. We kept him safe in a jam jar with a bit of honey and water to snack on.
I had a line out trolling for the entire crossing to Italy and again for the Gulf of Taranto with not so much as a nibble. As a fisherman I know this is the fault of my equipment but it’s getting increasingly hard to justify the expense of new lures with Julia’s sharp accounting and my lack of results.
We pulled into Crotone as the sun was setting, having navigated around three large offshore gas rigs. The approach was rather bleak and industrial while the marina was expensive and smelly. Luckily things got a bit better in town and there were quite a few impressive buildings and scattered ruins to make a stroll worthwhile. The waterfront seemed to be the only place with restaurants and we were relieved to find a roof terrace above the street with a light breeze.
All four of us onboard were pretty knackered by now from the long passages so we planned a short hop of three hours for the next day to Le Castella. We arrived in a tiny marina and moored up stern-to in a slight crosswind. At one point I thought the propeller fouled a nearby mooring rope and we had a tense few seconds in contact with the next door boat. Luckily all was OK and we were securely tied up and looking for a beach in no time.
As you might guess Le Castella boasts a fairly impressive castle. It has been sympathetically though thoroughly restored and we had a great time climbing the tower and enjoying the panorama that unfolded in front of us. Another fantastic pizza and then to bed in preparation for 60 nautical miles to Roccella Ionica the next day.
The sailing on this Greece to Sicily trip has been a mix of gentle 15 knots stretches broken up by flat clams that we had to motor through. Not the most challenging or exciting sailing but thankfully very safe. We had several dolphin sightings along the way but as we got closer to Sicily they seemed less inclined to play alongside the boat.
We absolutely love Roccella Ionica. The marina is brand new, clean and well run. We refuelled then nestled into our finger pontoon berth amongst five or so other yachts. There is a great restaurant in the marina that does pizza by the metre and a place to hire bikes for the ten minute ride into town.
We rode into town along the waterfront and let Julia lead us up the steepest hill right up to a palace currently under restoration. From there we cruised down the winding streets in search of supper.
After several long passages we were all in need of a bit of r&r so the decision was made to stay a second night in Roccella Ionica. We put our time to good use, catching up on admin, cleaning the boat and keeping out of the midday sun. That evening we went on the advice of the marina staff to a steak restaurant on the far side of town. A civilised establishment with all the impressions of fine dining but the prices of a street café. Once again it was early to bed for an early rise the next day as we leave the mainland and head for Sicily.