Posted by Johnny
The 4th of July saw us sailing out of Catania and on our way to Syracuse. For a couple of days we were back to our original crew of two. The weather had improved from the previous day and we kept up a brisk pace for the five hours it took to arrive at the Grand Harbour, Syracuse. We anchored just off the town quay amongst other boats searching out a cool breeze. After a quick swim we locked up and took the tender over to the yacht club pontoon to explore the town.
I had been to Syracuse about fifteen years previously but in that time had forgotten the aging splendour and impressiveness of the place. All the buildings are embellished with elaborate carvings and ironwork. We wandered down tight little streets, through markets and into open plazas. Julia found a café to sip prosecco and catch up on admin while I set up my easel outside.
Back on the boat that evening we had front row seats as a huge super yacht carefully manoeuvred into place on the quay. Next to it was an industrial looking Sea Shepherd vessel apparently involved in protecting the nearby marine reserves. We were expecting our new crew the next morning so we picked up the anchor and joined the larger ships on the quay to make the transfer easier. Surprisingly the Grand Harbour quay is free to tie up to.
The next day were three crew members stronger as Peter, Ania and Ola joined us for the coming week. The day was still young so we left Bumblebee on the quay, hired a car and headed inland. Our destination was Laghetti D'avola, a half hour drive to a river deep down in a gorge with a series of gin clear plunge pools.
That evening we learnt it can be hard to find a pizza in Syracuse after 11pm. Luckily we did find a place although it might just be the strangest pizza restaurant in Sicily.
We set off from Syracuse on the 7th and made our way to Aci Trezza, a small town just north of Catania. We intercepted a pod of playful dolphins mid-way through the journey. When we arrived there were no obvious yacht berths so we pulled up stern-to onto the fishing quay. We expected to be moved along at any moment but no one seemed interested in our spot, we later realised this might be something to do with the sunken ship just under our keel!
We explored the borosilicate islands just outside the harbour which legend has it are the remains of spears hurled by the Cyclops at Odysseus. We had supper in town followed by a few drinks onboard and a round or two of Dobble.
Toarmina was our next stop. Using our previous experience we skipped the laid moorings and dropped the anchor instead. It was a lovely calm evening so I went up the mast again to try and fix the mooring light. After a bit of swimming in the strong current we went up into the town to look around.
The next day saw strong winds and currents kicking up quite a swell. We tried to pull into the little bay around the corner but were forced to return to the shelter of the anchorage. We were not alone as every boat in the area, large and small, retreated to the sheltered bay. Julia and I made our way up to the hilltop town above Taormina while P,O&A chilled on the beach in front of the boat.
At about 6pm I made the decision to set sail for Calabria to begin our passage through the Strait of Messina. It should only have been a gentle sail of three hours as the sun set. When we left we were immediatly dealing with a very chopped up sea as the current fought with the wind. I was confident that as we sailed further out the waves would settle and the conditions would improve. Despite the predictions of four different weather forecasts this turned out not to be the case. The crossing took five hours and it wasn’t until after dark that we reached Porto Bolaro having dealt with +30kt winds, +2m waves, a seasick crew and resorting to our back up destination.
Porto Bolaro is just an hour short of Calabria so we were still in a good position to enter the Strait the next day. As it turned out we had the marina pretty much to ourselves. It was expensive but made up for it by being exceptionally clean and boasting a bar and private beach. The next morning we would set off into the Strait of Messina.