As planned, we departed Licata and headed for Marina Ragusa. We don’t typically spend a lot of time in marinas, but we were very curious about this marina. We have seen a lot of debate on our sailing forums discussing whether the marina in Licata or the marina in Ragusa is better for living on the boat during the winter months. Sicily is the warmest spot in winter in Europe. We wanted to do our due diligence and visit them both to decide for ourselves (who knows, we might want to spend a winter out here). They were both very nice marinas, but Ragusa was our favorite. The marina sits on the edge of a very touristy beach town which meant we had miles of a lungomare (seafront boardwalk) that we could walk. This was lined with lots of restaurants and bars along with beach chairs and umbrellas. Definitely a beautiful and vibrant seaside town. We decided to rent a car and head to the actual town of Ragusa to check it out.
The town of Ragusa sits high up on a hill and is famous for it’s Baroque style of architecture (it is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site). Adorning the city is the Duomo di San Giorgio, a number of beautiful churches, and a large public park with a church, fountains and statues. The city is flanked on either side by two deep valleys which offer amazing views. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
After thoroughly exploring the town of Ragusa, we headed to our next stop, the town of Modica (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Unlike our last stop, Modica rests at the bottom of a deep gorge. Just like Ragusa, Modica is known for it’s Baroque architecture as well. One of the most beautiful examples of this was the Cathedral of St. George. Modica is known for a 400 year old tradition of chocolate making, and the streets are lined with chocolate shops and tasting rooms. There is even a chocolate museum. Of course, we had to check out the museum! In the museum, it explains all about the chocolate making process, but the really interesting part is all the artwork and sculptures are made of…..you guessed it, chocolate! Since Sicily was once part of the Spanish kingdom, they were one of the first places in all of Europe to receive treasures brought back from South America (namely, Cacao). Their chocolate recipe, methods and flavorings are based on the Aztecs method of chocolate making. We wandered into one store and were overwhelmed by the number of flavors of chocolate you could buy. They had flavors of various alcohols and liqueurs, various kinds of herbs and spices, fruits, and more! It is a very different kind of chocolate in that it is mainly made with cocoa and sugar and mixed in a cold-working process. They add no fats. It contains only the cocoa butter that is naturally found in the cocoa beans. By using this cold process, the sugar crystals are kept whole which does give it a rather grainy kind of texture. So, Dan and I had a little bit of fun picking out a variety of flavors (did I mention there were 100’s to choose from).
We left Modica for our final stop in the town of Scicli. This was a lesser known town than the two we previously visited and also sits in a gorge. The town is overlooked by a towering rock where the Church of San Matteo sits. This town is also made up of Baroque style architecture. Unfortunately, we had reached mid afternoon and the temperatures were soaring. Plus after walking miles and miles, we were hot and tired. We wandered around a little bit, and then headed off to a little restaurant built into the stone hill where we enjoyed an authentic Sicilian appetizer and a glass of Prosecco. All in all, it was a very fun day! I am in love with this part of Sicily.
This was the end of our exploration of the south side of Sicily. There really wasn’t much else to see (by sea, anyway) on the southern side. It was time to start making our way back around toward mainland Italy. Our next destination was the town of Syracusa. Since it was a very long passage, we broke up the journey with an overnight anchorage along the way. We also felt a very strong need to scrub the hulls of Zoe. After sitting in the Licata Marina for 2 months, Zoe had grown a disgusting beard of algae, plant life and barnacles…..ewwww! Not to mention all this growth was slowing down our speed through the water. Let me tell you, scrubbing that crap off was hard and gross. The crystal clear water became clouded with debris, but Zoe looked a lot better.
The next day we pulled into the anchorage outside of Siracusa. We had a crackin’ good sail almost the whole way down. Unfortunately, it was blowing 25 knots in the anchorage when we pulled in. This made anchoring extremely challenging. It sets the anchor really fast, but trying to get the 5 meter bridle onto the chain and dropped before the anchor chain ripped our bowsprit off was not fun! It required Dan to motor full throttle forward just to hold us in place. With that done, we sat down and rode out the blow in very choppy water. Not fun. We made arrangements the next day to come into the marina. It was suppose to be blowy again, and it’s a long dinghy ride to get to the town if you are out at anchor. Given the waves and chop in the anchorage, there was no way we were going to dinghy to town. We had friends from Canada meeting us here. They had come sailing with us in Croatia last year, and they had picked up their new catamaran in April in France. Our paths finally crossed here in Sicily.
The next morning, we pulled into the marina and were somewhat disappointed to see that they were going to park us on the outside of the pontoon. At the time, there were 2 other boats here as well. The marinero helped us secure the boat all the while assuring us that it was perfectly fine. We ended up with 4 lines from the seabed to our bow (usually only two….that probably should have been alarm bell number 1). We then had 2 stern lines and 2 mid ship spring lines. If that sounds like a lot of lines, it is! We must’ve looked a little uneasy because he kept assuring us that everything was good, and the wind would be gone by 7 p.m. I’m sure you see where this is going. The winds came up fast and furious as the waves crashed into and over the dock. The anchorage would’ve been safer, but at this point we could not even get off of our boat to cast our lines and go. We were stuck riding out the most wicked wind and seas while tied to a dock. It was miserable, and we became the photo op for every boat safely tucked inside the marina. Did I forget to mention the two boats that were on the dock had left a long time ago? We were suppose to meet our friends for dinner at 8:30, but it was impossible to safely get off our boat because the wind did NOT die down at 7:00. As a matter of fact, we were not able to safely get off our boat until 9:30! So, we met up with our friends and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the beautiful town of Syracusa. I think the marina felt sorry for us, so the next day they moved us to a very nice spot INSIDE the marina. Here we spent 2 glorious days safely tied up and free to come and go off of Zoe.
Syracusa is definitely one of my favorite spots on the eastern side of Sicily (Taormina being also a favorite). Not far from the town itself is an amazing archaeological park of both Greek and Roman ruins. It was about a 25 minute walk to the park where we explored miles of incredible sites. I will let the pictures do the talking for this bit.
Thanks to some new American friends we made in Albania, we learned about a local street market in town. We LOVED this market. Not only was there an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, but we found fresh fish mongers, cheese makers, sausage makers, a variety of local products, and huge stands of herbs, seasonings, olives, and sun-dried tomato spreads. We loaded up on lots of goodies and returned again 2 days later to load up some more! As most cities in Italy, Syracusa has a beautiful Duomo in the center of the city. We loved wandering the cobbled streets of this beautiful city. We also enjoyed a couple of nice dinners in town with our Canadian friends as well as a really fun night aboard their boat with snacks and wine…..lots and lots of amazing French wine.
After returning from the street market Monday morning, it was time to get underway. The weather was starting to take a turn for worse around mainland Italy and across the Adriatic (our route back to Greece). We said farewell to our friends and began our overnight journey from Sicily to Crotone. We were very much looking forward to seeing our Italian friends again and spending some time in Crotone. Along the journey, I spotted several young sea turtles (I say young because they were not very big) and some dolphins on the hunt. That always makes these long passages more fun. After 28 hours of beating into the wind and waves, we decided to drop anchor for the night and get some rest. We were still about 3 hours from Crotone, and we would’ve had to try and anchor in the dark.
That night, we reviewed several forecasts and discovered that the weather had worsened and wasn’t forecasted to change for a week. Since that is as far out as they forecast, it could’ve continued for longer. We were forced to make the painful decision that the next day was our best window of opportunity to get across the sea and back into Greece. This meant no visit to Crotone or Otranto which were high on our list of “must see again!” One minor problem…..we were required to turn in our Constituto upon leaving the country (this is a document that tracks where we have been in Italy). Closest port authority to turn in said document….Crotone….3 hours out of our way. We agonized over the idea of just leaving and not turning it In, but the fear of being banned from coming back to Italy or receiving a hefty fine weighed heavily on our mind. So much for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we got up at 5:00 a.m. to do the right thing. We got to Crotone, anchored outside the harbor, and Dan went in to return our Constituto and pick up some Sardella and fresh fish. We were back on our way at 10:00 a.m. This leg of the journey would take us from Crotone, Italy to Preveza, Greece (a 30 hour passage)! The seas were calm (yeah!) but that meant so were the winds (boo), so we had no sailing….all motoring….hello big diesel bill 🙁 Dan and I followed our typical pattern of 4.5 hours on and 4.5 hours off. In my attempt to get better at not getting stuck with most of the night shifts, I managed to land myself the 11:00 to 3:30 a.m. shift. Unfortunately, the moon rise was really late on this day, so my shift was in pitch black. I hate pitch black! I could not see the horizon….could not see where the sea ended and the sky began….ugh. However, the stars were beautiful, and I did get to see a shooting star. I also got to see the moon rise which was spectacular! At 2/3 full and bright orange, I watched as it arose from the depths of the dark sea to cast a beautiful glow across the water to Zoe. Ahhh, much happier now. Well, sort of. I’m not sure if it was lack of sleep or not enough water (or both), but I ended up with a wicked bout of vertigo which lasted for 2 days. At one point, I thought one of the hulls must be taking on water because the boat was tipping to one side. Turns out, it was not the boat….it was me. Yikes. I suffered through my watch and was very grateful when Dan relieved me. Not to mention, the sweet man let me sleep a couple of hours past his shift in the hopes I would feel better. I did not 🙁
At 5:30 p.m., we arrived in Preveza, Greece. We are safely sitting at anchor and will head into the marina tomorrow to ride out some wicked weather due to start Saturday night and make for an all day, nasty Sunday. It feels good to be home, but I do miss Italy a lot!