Treasures of Calabria

After a peaceful night at anchor (despite dropping anchor in a new place in the dark), we topped up our fuel tanks before heading to the northern end of Crotone.  We tied up in our favorite little marina only to discover that the price had doubled (we were in the high season of July)!  We fell in love with this marina last year as the price was very reasonable, the people were awesome, we were given a nice bottle of wine on arrival, and fresh pistachio croissants every morning.  While the marina people were still amazing, we paid twice as much and did not get any of the special treats like last year.  Yes, I know….spoiled whiners.  By late afternoon, we were contacted by some American friends we had met last year who had just come in to the anchorage right outside the port.  Since they were making a very early morning departure, we made arrangements to meet them on shore for a drink.  We also were contacted by the Italian friends we met last year telling us they would be coming to town to meet us for dinner.  You may recall that we met the Italian fisherman last year when we were in search of the ammunition ship that was blown up in WWII with Dan’s grandfather onboard.  He brought us to his house where we met his wife, took us to special restaurants, cooked for us, and showed us around the area.  We were happy to be able to reconnect with them a year later.

Zoe is thirsty for more fuel after 356 nautical miles. The Med tends to have light winds in summer so we end up motoring than we like. Or scary winds and we stay in port. Days in between are all too rare!

We met our friends, Steve and Emily, swapping some stories and catching up from our year apart.  We were very sad that we didn’t get more time to hang out with them this year.  We were quite literally “two ships passing in the night.”  Hopefully next season, we will find each other again.  Before long, Vincenzo and Chiara showed up and off we went in search of a dinner spot.  We landed in a pizzeria.  Out came the phones and google translate as we navigated through our conversations.  We are beginning to understand more of what is said to us, and Dan does a pretty good job attempting to speak Italian.  We figure if we spend a few seasons here, we will definitely learn Italian because no one wants to speak English.  We are able to be lazy in many of the other countries we’ve visited because everyone else wants to improve their English, so they speak to us in English (therefore, we are never able to learn and practice their languages).  Here, we are forced to learn it!  I found a pizza that sounded interesting (completely forgetting that the word fritti means fried).  Our friends seemed a little taken aback at what Dan and I ordered, and Vincenzo worked really hard to dissuade Dan from his choice.  In the end, Dan ended up with a steak dinner (which wasn’t even on the menu but was delicious nonetheless) and my fried pizza looked more like a calzone with a crust more like Indian fry bread.  Chiara ordered the same, and we both concluded we would not order that ever again.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t the awesome pizza you typically get in Italy.

Before we parted company, we made plans to sail back north to the town of Strongoli where their house was located.  We would anchor off the beach and go to their house for lunch then a tour of the area.  It would take us about an hour and a half to two hours to make our way north again.  As we departed the marina and rounded the corner of the breakwater, we were suddenly hit with 15-20 knot winds on the nose.  THAT was not in the forecast!  We also had 3-5 foot (1-1.5 m)swell and waves.  So here we were, yet again, bashing into the wind and waves, things falling off the shelves.  We hoped it would get better when we got to Strongoli, but our gut told us that would not be the case.  Strongoli has beautiful sand and crystal clear water, but not a lot of protection from the wind and waves.  It took us 3 hours to arrive, and as expected, it did not get better.  We sat on the boat (pitching around and discussing the safety of Zoe being anchored here), tried another area that Vincenzo suggested (he was watching us from the beach).  In the end, neither of us felt comfortable leaving the boat at anchor to go into shore for several hours out of sight of the boat.  We felt terrible knowing that our friends had prepared a special lunch for us.  We apologized and told them, we had to go back, but we would be willing to take a cab to come to them if they wanted to delay lunch by a few hours.  We quickly hoisted sails and before long, we were flying south.  We made it back to Crotone in an hour and a half!  This time we anchored outside of the marina breakwater in a prime location.  Our friends told us they would pick us up at 7:00 to come have dinner at their house.  Similar to last year, we were treated to an amazing multi course meal of seafood caught by Vincenzo.  We started with anchovies crudo (raw but marinated in lemon so more like ceviche style) and Sardella with bread (a very spicy fish paste), then pasta with mussels, tuna steak and salad, watermelon, and lemon sorbet.  They stuffed us full!  After dinner, they drove us down to meet Chiara’s parents and nephew.  We sat visiting with them for an hour or so before finally heading home around 11:30.  We were exhausted.  It’s funny how tiring it is when you don’t speak the language.  You have to spend all your time in heavy concentration to try and understand what is being said and how to reply.  They also gifted us with Chiara’s homemade Sardella and local olive oil.  It was so nice spending time with them again.  We are really hoping to have them on Zoe in August when Chiara has her vacation time.

Our Italian friend Vincenzo snapped this picture of us under sail after we decided to return to Crotone
A common meal starter in parts of Calabria is Sardella. It’s a spicy fish paste made from juvenile sardines and mixed with Calabrian red spicy peppers, topped with olive oil and spread on fresh bread – its quite tasty!
Robyn enjoying some homemade seafood pasta
Vincenzo and Chiara – the best Italian hosts!

We departed Crotone very early for our 64 mile passage to Roccella.  This would require us to cross the Gulf of Squillace which is notorious for nasty winds.  Forecasts showed the gulf would not be blowing until late in the afternoon.  Wrong!  The winds hit 18-26 knots with 1-1.8 m (3-6 foot) choppy seas.  We were able to sail most of it on a reefed main and genoa.  Since we were taking the seas on the side, things were flying off the shelves again.  I know….why haven’t they learned?!  Well, we keep trusting the forecasts!  When we know what’s coming, we do stow everything we can that might move.  I guess we just need to do this regardless of what the forecast says.  Eleven hours later, we were pulling into the marina in Roccella.  After days of pushing really hard, we decided this would be a reset.  We would get Zoe cleaned up, rent a car for a few days and do some exploring inland.

Leaving Crotone you have to navigate through some off shore oil rigs and workboat traffic
Forecasts in the Med can be fickle, and the forecasts in the Golfo di Squillace especially so. What was supposed to be a light wind day turned into a rollicking beam reach in 25 knot winds
Zoe in Porto delle Grazie in Rocella Ionica

Similar to home, Italy is under an intense heatwave, so we decided to get off the boat and head into the mountains to do some hiking and get some relief.  Up, up, up we went.  The higher we went, the more stressed I got.  We were in an itty bitty 2 door Fiat 500 (comically small….and gratefully so).  We traversed hairpin turns up, up, up.  No big deal.  A little stressful was the fact that we were on a road sized for one car, but it was two lane.  Still not a huge deal.  The huge deal was the 1000+ foot (305+ meter) sheer drop off over the side with no guard rails!  I was practically sitting in Dan’s lap (like that would’ve kept us from going over the edge).  The road turned very rough making it even more challenging.  Back home, this would’ve been considered a 4 x 4 road.  We found a place to park off the side of the road and took a beautiful hike through a forested area.  Surprisingly, it was not significantly cooler like we had hoped, but amazing sights and smells (pine)nonetheless.  We completed a loop and then headed further up the mountain in search of a waterfall we had read about.  Once again, we parked off the side of the road and headed off.  This trail went down, down, down.  It was a winding, slick trail with many steps carved out of the rock.  We eventually came out at the river’s edge.  There was a sign for two different waterfalls.  One that went straight up a steep looking goat path, and one that went down.  We opted for the path that went down as we were a little leary about the footing coming back down the really steep uphill path.  Turns out the downhill wasn’t a whole lot better.  It had very narrow, rock cut steps, many of which required handholds due to the unusual height of the steps.  We got most of the way down to the bottom of the waterfall and decided to head back up.  We were already hot and tired from our first hike, and the return to the car was going to be all uphill.  We meandered our way back down the mountain, checking out all the quaint little villages perched precariously on the sides of the gorge.

Our cute Italian Fiat high in the Calabrian mountains of Asperomonte National Park
Cooler temps and wonder hikes
Had to deal with rush hour. Felt like parting a sea of sheep…
Well marked trails and beautiful scenery
Climbing up from a waterfall gorge. Off boat adventures can be a nice change of pace
The mountains were calling – and we must go!
One of several waterfalls we visited in Asperomonte National Park

The next day we opted for a shorter drive to another set of mountains and another waterfall hike.  This drive was every bit has hairball as the last one!  At one point, we came to a complete standstill behind a huge herd of sheep blocking the road.  Dan honked and honked (they were in no hurry to move) and slowly parted the sea of sheep with the car.  We drove and drove seeing no signs of any type of hiking or waterfall.  Eventually we parked the car in one of the few spots big enough to turn around and go back and decided to follow the road on foot for a bit just to see what was ahead.  Unfortunately, the road was in the blazing sun, and it was blistering hot.  As we trudged down, down, down, we finally stumbled on a bridge and signage indicating a trail to the waterfall.  Yeah!  Off we went.  As soon as we hit the water’s edge, the temperatures dropped and we were cooled.  We crisscrossed the river over these rickety, log bridges with smaller waterfalls crashing below us.  The forest was dense and tropical.  It was a welcome hike through very peaceful terrain, and we had it all to ourselves.  We were treated to several different waterfalls, and it appeared the trail went on and on.  The problem was we didn’t know how far it went or where it ended.  In the end, we were getting eaten by mosquitos and decided an hour was long enough since we still had to come back UP the hot, dirt road we had come down.  It felt good to be out hiking again.

This ike was highly reviewed but challenging to find the start. What a relief when we found it!
Beautiful river gorge to explore. We had it ourselves
Many crossings of the river on shaky wood bridges

On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at this little restaurant hidden in the forest.  The owners welcomed us in, and we were the only ones there.  We muddled our way through the language barrier and settled on a multi-course of their local specialties.  Dan had ordered the lamb chops and not long after, we heard the tinkling of “cow” bells.  “I hope that’s not your lunch arriving,” I said to Dan.  We both kind of chuckled.  We had an amazing lunch and a special experience, all alone in the garden of this little gem.  As we headed out, we ran into our second “traffic jam” of the trip.  A big herd of horned cows and babies coming down the road, and what was hanging around their necks?  The tinkling cow bells we had heard earlier.

Wonderful Calabrian specialties deep in the mountains of the region
Fiat versus bull. I’m sure that would have ended badly!

Our final day with the car, we decided to go explore some of the hilltop villages.  These were quite a sight to see perched high on the cliffs.  We briefly wandered in and out of the sleepy little villages, but in the end, it was just too hot.  Dan found a highly reviewed little winery that we decided to check out, but they didn’t open until 3:00.  He contacted them about coming to visit and before we knew it, the winemaker himself came and opened up early just for us.  It turned out this was really more of their local tasting room, and the actual winery was 20 minutes away in the valley of the gorge.  The winemaker began explaining the wine making classifications of Italy (in Italian, of course), and we were actually able to follow along pretty well.  Before long, his English speaking daughter arrived.  She had come in from the vineyard to help translate for us.  Both had graciously opened up for us despite a big winery event they were hosting that evening!  Had it not already been sold out, we would have loved to have gone to that.  I have to give a big shout out to the wonderful family of Azienda Agricola Cosimo Murace located in Bivongi!  We tasted a variety of amazing wines, which we then of course purchased.  We bid farewell with a promise to return to the actual vineyard when we come back through.  As we headed back to the marina for our final night in Roccella, we stopped at a little specialty market and bought up a bunch of typical local products made right there on sight.  We also hit a market where we stocked our boat with a ton of Calabrian specialties that had become some of our all time favorites.  After all, we would be leaving Calabria very soon.

Italian mountainside villages are so picturesque
We think our boutique winery hosts enjoyed a visit from a pair of long distance travelers! Here we are with the master winemaker.

The next morning, we departed before 6 a.m for the 59 mile passage to Reggio Calabria.  This would be a “staging” stop for our departure through the Straits of Messina the following morning.  Along the way, we were treated to a large pod of small dolphins frolicking in the water.  As we began to approach the tip of mainland Italy, we noticed large tanker planes landing on the water.  Unfortunately, a large part of Southern Italy was on fire in the mountain regions.  For several hours, we were treated to the spectacle of these planes and helicopters coming down to the water (sometimes uncomfortably close to us), scooping up massive amounts of sea water, before banking sharply around us and heading into the hills to dump it.  The rumble of the engines as they flew over us was so loud it gave you chills.  We’ve included some video (which still doesn’t do it justice), but you will get a feel for just how spectacular their piloting skills were.  

Sunrise starts are painful but the views are nice
The skills of these water scooper pilots were incredible to watch. They worked tirelessly all day to try and get the numerous wildfires in the hills under control

We spent one night on a mooring ball in Reggio Calabria and hit the water to cool off.  Astonishingly, our mooring was in 50 meters of water (164 feet)!  I will admit, it made me a tiny bit uncomfortable swimming in that depth of water (yeah, I know….silly).  The currents were pretty strong as well, so we didn’t stray too far from the boat.  Unfortunately, we made the decision to eat on board so when Dan went in to pay for the mooring, the owner was disappointed we didn’t come in for dinner.  Ironically, his restaurant had good reviews, was right on the waterfront, and I had been eyeing it online as a place to eat if we went in to town.  When Dan got back, he told me what a cute restaurant it was and how disappointed they were that we didn’t come in.   Now, I was sad and disappointed too!  We just had stupid grilled chicken and salad instead of delectable, local seafood.  Shout out to Ristorante la Capanna….we will be back, and we will be joining you for dinner!  The owner’s daughter walked Dan to a local dessert shop that was very highly reviewed (also evidenced by the flock of people).  He returned to the boat with his treats which we enjoyed later.  The few times we’ve splurged on desserts, we have been very disappointed, so we weren’t really hopeful this time as well.  Boy, were we wrong!  We shared two different kind of desserts that were some of the best treats we have ever had!  Mirco Gelateria for the win!!!

In Italy, the mooring ball field operators tend to dinghy out and assist with tying up. Nice touch when there are only two of us onboard and it’s windy.
Firefighting helicopter refilling before his next run. Heroes!

As I mentioned, we only planned to be here one night in order to time our crossing of the Straits of Messina.  This passage can be extremely dangerous if not timed correctly.  We spent days looking at wind patterns and tides to determine our safest time to pass through.  In addition to the winds (which get funneled down from mainland Italy and Sicily), there can be very strong currents that you can either ride or fight your way through.  On top of this, there are eddies and whirlpools that rise up creating challenges.  At the narrowest part of the strait, is a “freeway” of giant car ferries crossing from one side to the next (more games of frogger with giant ships).  The last bit of fun is the result of wind and tide running in opposition which creates short, high breaking seas in the center of the strait.  We saw moderate levels of all (except for the giant ferries which came out 6 ferries in a row as we approached).  In seafaring times, before all our awesome technology, many boats were claimed in the Straits of Messina.  It was a pretty easy passage but definitely a little nerve wracking not knowing what we might encounter.  Once through the strait, we made our way to the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands where we will wait out some nasty winds headed our way.  In our next post, we will bring you the sights and adventures of these interesting volcanic (some still active)islands!

Italian website on current flows in the Messina Straits. For us, it was critical to have a northbound current (Correnti Montante in Italian) and little of the prevailing southerly wind. Timing was everything.
The payoff is a 4 knot current in the right direction as Zoe zooms through the Straits at 10 knots
In antiquity, the cauldrons created by the currents would swallow up unlucky boats who entered at the wrong time. This was the biggest cauldron we saw – timing definitely is everything.
Busy shipping channel through a chokepoint means both of us were constantly on the lookout for traffic to avoid.
Swordfish boat in the Straits. The swordfish in the Med tend to migrate through the straits and are easier to find. That is a spotter in that tower with binoculars looking for prey to harpoon.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back On The Water

Oh where, oh where, do I begin?  You may recall from our last post that we had pulled up a big, nasty fish trap that had been laid over top of our anchor and bridle.  We spent an extra 20 minutes freeing ourselves without cutting the trap free.  You would think that would’ve bought us some good fishermen karma.  Unfortunately, it seemed to have cursed us.  We were underway from Gallipoli to Taranto across the Gulf of Taranto.  This was going to be an 8 1/2 hour passage.  The winds were already at 9 knots when we got started, so we put up the main sail and gennaker.  The winds continued to grow and before long we were crackin’ along at 6-7 knots under full sail.  Finally!  About half way into our journey, we began to encounter a few commercial fishing boats.  Most were moving slowly and not very close to us.  I noticed a new one tucked up into the Gulf.  He was basically cruising parallel to us but quite a distance away.  I kept a close eye on him because he was frequently hidden behind our gennaker, so I wanted to know where he was at any given point.  Before long, I noticed that he was coming closer and closer to us.  In response, I kept adjusting our course to fall away from him.  Next thing I know, he is at a high rate of speed and heading straight at us!  We are under full sail, so any adjustments we make are going to be painfully slow compared to his speed.  Dan ran to the bow and started yelling to get their attention.  How can he possibly be on this course if he sees us?  As I watch him barreling toward us midship, I freeze in absolute terror.  This is it.  He is going to hit us, and we are going to be blasted into a million pieces.  All I can do is brace myself, hands over my mouth, and eyes the size of saucers.  Dan fires up the engine and does what little he can to try and get our slow boat out of the way with the least amount of damage.  His big, steel hulled boat passed within a foot or two (.5-.7 meters)of our stern!  I was shaking so violently, I could  no longer stand up.  I spent an hour in total silence, still shaking.  Then, the anger came.  That f-ing asshat!  I can only think that he did that on purpose. He changed his course.  He changed his speed.  Falling off a few degrees = no problem.  Slowing down a few knots = no problem.  This had to be intentional to mess with us.  This captain (if in fact he was one) should be stripped of his license for reckless endangerment.  I was going to document all of this right then, but it’s probably better that I didn’t.  It’s been a few days, and I am a little bit calmer (although I still relive it on a regular basis and get angry all over again)!

Passage plan from Gallipoli to Taranto.
Not a great day on the water for co-captain Robyn.

The passage took us 8 hours, mostly under sail, until we finally arrived in the bay of Taranto.  Because this is a major shipping port, the port captain requires you to call for permission to enter.  Dan tried to radio them 8 different times with no response, so in we went.  There were probably 15-20 behemoth cargo ships anchored all around us as we made our way up into the bay.  It was quite a sight to see.  As we approached the marina, Dan radioed our arrival to the marina several times as well.  Once again, we got no response.  Finally we spotted the marinero waving us to our spot.  We proceeded to get ourselves tied up with his instruction (all in Italian).  It continues to crack me up that even when you tell them you don’t speak Italian, they continue to repeat themselves as if you will eventually get it.  It is quite hysterical.  Once we were comfortably settled in, we collapsed in the air conditioned salon and cracked open an ice cold beer.  Ahhhhh.  Before long, the marinero arrived again and very apologetically informed us that we needed to move to a different spot.  He said the port captain felt that we stuck out to far in the fairway and wanted us moved.  Awwww man!  For me, the most stressful part of sailing (aside from bad weather and nasty commercial captains) is docking and undocking…..and now I had to do it twice in less than a couple of hours.  The poor marinero felt so bad.  So off we went to a spot alongside the concrete wall.  It became quite the jigsaw puzzle with the marinero trying to bring up sand lines that were far too short in order to keep us from smashing against the concrete wall (the direction of the wind and swell come from).

Taranto is seldom visited by cruisers like us as it’s a large commercial port.
Tied up to the quay with a nice view of the Old City
Doing the paperwork shuffle on a hot day

With Zoe comfortably tied up and secure in the marina, Dan and I rented a car and headed inland for some sightseeing.  We had been pushing really hard making very long passages with very little down time, so we both felt the need to take a break.   We drove through the beautiful countryside of the region of Puglia.  Our first stop was Ostuni, Citta Bianca (the white city).  This beautiful place is perched high on the hills and is quite a sight to see.  Although, I think I would name it 50 shades of beige (not a lot of real white remains).  We wandered around for bit and then headed off to our next destination, Alberobello which means beautiful tree.  This town is famous for their unique buildings which they call trulli.  Because of the unique style of the Trulli, they have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I had heard of the town referred to (not by Italians) as the Smurf village.  From the pictures, it is easy to see why (if you have ever watched the show “The Smurfs”).  It was beyond adorable and definitely a worthwhile stop.  Unfortunately, we were in the heat of the day, and it was blistering hot.  We decided to have a light bite and drink inside one of the Trulli’s.  Probably not our best idea other than the experience.  We paid a hefty tab for a very small plate of local meat and cheese and 1 drink each (about $60 ….ouch).

Ostuni – the White City
Citta Bianca.. We happened to wear white by coincidence…we swear
Leaving Ostuni in our rear view mirror and onwards to “Smurf Town”
The Trullis of Alberobello
Alberobello was a wonderful place to wander
The heat wave seemed to keep the tourists away so we did not have the notorious crowds to deal with

Did I mention that we had been pushing really hard in moving the boat and this was our downtime for some rest and relaxation?  HA!  For those of you that know Dan well, he doesn’t really know how to do slow and leisurely….everything is done at warp speed.  This trip was no different.  Our third and final stop for the night was the city of Matera.  This city is renowned for its rock-cut core.  It has twin cliff side zones known as the Sassi.  The city began as a complex of cave homes banking a breath-taking gorge.  The Sassi has 12 levels that climb 380 meters (1247 feet) and are connected by a series of pathways and stairs.  You will definitely get your steps and elevation walking around this city!  This medieval city clings to the edge of the canyon and is remarkably well preserved.  We had rented a room here that was located inside one of the caves at the very bottom of the city.  Just finding it was quite the adventure.  The hotel was also a winery, so upon our arrival we were treated to a lovely glass of wine in the cool shelter of the cave lobby.  Once again, the outside was blistering hot.  We enjoyed the cool sanctuary of our cave room before heading out for a dinner overlooking the gorge and then heading up the gazillion steps to the top of the city.  The sights were spectacular.  This was definitely one of my favorite stops, so I was sad we were only going to be here for about 15 hours.  This spot is high on our “must revisit and spend more time” list (which seems to be growing by the day).  We had hit 3 different cities on our loop in less than 24 hours!  Sound relaxing?  Not so much.

The narrow drive to a our parking spot. Mirrors almost touched the walls!
It was actually quite a maze to puzzle through to find the hotel
Found it…home for the night. Deep in the Sassi of Matera
Nice part of staying at winery – the welcome drink!
Hotel room carved into a cave
This will do!
Lots of Americans here – a Texan was nice enough to take our picture
Matera is situated in a picturesque valley- we need to come back and spend more time exploring the area
Dinner with a view
Matera is also gorgeous by night
Nighttime strolls in Italy can be magical

It was a several hour drive back through beautiful countryside.  We were somewhat forced to leave early as the rental car place closed at 11:00 (Saturday) and would not reopen until Monday.  We were already checked out with the Coast Guard and expected to depart on Sunday.  We dropped the car and took a 20 minute cab ride back to the boat (yep, that was the closest available car rental we could find….so two 20 minute cab rides made it a bit more pricey than normal).  We returned to the cool comfort of our boat to plot our next move.  We headed out into the old city of Taranto on a mission to buy some goodies specific to the region of Puglia.  We stumbled on this little market where one of the guys working there spoke some English.  He showed us which of the meats and cheeses were specific to Puglia and their city, allowed us to taste them, and we promptly stocked up.  He then threw in some extra treats for us for free.  

We decided to have a seafood dinner (something they are known for)in the old city of Taranto, so we headed out in search of a restaurant.  Unfortunately, most restaurants don’t open until 8:30, and we are just not accustomed to eating that late at night.  Even the ones on Google that claimed to be open were not open.  We checked with several different places only to be turned away and told they would be full from reservations.  We were rapidly becoming very disheartened.  We wandered across the bridge to the other side of the marina to check another place we found on Google.  Dan: “It’s suppose to be right here.  We are standing right in front of it!”  There was nothing there….just a very closed up, dilapidated building.  Dan:  “ I‘ve found one more place with really good reviews.  If it’s not there, we are done.  We are going back to the boat and calling it a day.”  So, we wandered down this very sketch alley.  Sketchy enough that Dan growled at me for being 10 feet behind him instead of right beside him to ensure my safety.  We spotted the restaurant sign and approached.  It was most definitely not open despite Google saying it was open.  As we stood staring at the door in complete and total dejection, a woman stepped out of an open kitchen door to check on us.  We asked if they were open for dinner.  She scampered inside and another woman emerged.  We repeated our question, and she signaled us to wait.  She went in and spoke to the chef, and before we knew it, she was opening the door to the restaurant and escorting us in.  Holy cow!  They opened up their restaurant 45 minutes early just for us!  With almost no English spoken and the use of some Google translate, we managed to understand that it was a set menu.  She explained to us that it was $25 Euro a person.  Sounds reasonable (of course we have no idea what we will be eating).  Before long, the starter arrives.  Out comes 7 or 8 different small plates of seafood (mussels, octopus salad, sauced squid, marinated anchovies, and on and on).  Each dish was amazing.  The first course arrived which was a large pasta noodle with clams and mussels.  The second course consisted of fried calamari, shrimp and fish.  We finished with a tangy lemon sorbet.  The food was amazing, and the hospitality and kindness even more so.  The chef came out several times to make sure we liked everything.  Thank you Mary and Pasquale for rescuing our spirits!

The streets were empty- it was dark- and the waterfront neighborhood a bit gritty
But inside the restaurant was amazing food!
Maria our server and Pasquale our Chef
Boats with 2 people and ships with 3000! Two very different kinds of cruising

We left the dock bright and early for our 15 hour passage to Crotone (on the ball of the foot).  There are two areas along the southern part of Italy that require careful consideration, the Gulf of Taranto and the Gulf of Squillace.  Both of these gulfs can have some very wicked winds and big seas, so finding the right weather window to cross them is very important.  We were headed out of the Gulf of Taranto and our window was clear.  Our biggest challenge would be arriving in Crotone after dark and dropping anchor.  We have never dropped anchor in the pitch dark of night, so this would be interesting.  Everything we had read said it was wide open sand (an anchor’s best friend).  We had an uneventful passage, arrived in Crotone and dropped anchor at 10:45 p.m.  By 11:00, we were well dug in and ready for a good nights sleep.  We plan to spend a few days in Crotone and meet up with a few friends, so I will leave this story here for now.  Stay tuned for more adventures on and off Zoe!

Passage plan Taranto –> Crotone
Robyn dropping anchor under Crotone’s city lights after a long day

Headed For New Horizons

Our new refrigerator had finally arrived, and we pulled into Preveza Marina on Wednesday.  Within a half an hour, the guys were on board to pull out the old and put in the new.  We spent the next two nights enjoying the town of Preveza one last time before leaving Greece on Friday.  As we walked down the town quay, we spotted an American flagged boat.  It turned out to be our friend Mike whose hailing port is Eloy, Arizona.  It’s not often we encounter Americans on boats out here, and we’ve definitely never encountered someone from the same landlocked state as us.  As the 3 of us headed into town for dinner, we stumbled upon an international choral competition taking place that week, so we were treated to some beautiful music all around the town from different groups from various countries.

Out with the old…in with the new. Our power usage went way down too!
We chatted a bit with the Romanian choral delegation

When Friday morning came, we ran around taking care of formalities to exit the country of Greece.  It always amazes me how long the process takes, but by 10 a.m we were underway for Albania.  HA!  Well, that was the plan.  As we rounded the corner out of the channel, the wind and swells began to pick up.  Before we knew it, we were being blasted by 25 knot winds on the nose and hitting 4-5’ swells and waves.  Each time Zoe’s bow buried into a trough, we were doused with sea spray all the way in the back of the boat.  Dishes began crashing inside the cupboards, things on shelves came crashing to the floor, and drawers and cabinets flew violently opened and closed.  We braced ourselves against the onslaught.  After about 5 unrelenting hours, we made the decision to pull into a bay for the night and try again early the next morning.  You have 24 hours to leave Greece once you’ve checked out.  We would definitely be underway, but still in Greek waters, technically.  By 6 a.m., we were underway once more.  Once inside the Corfu channel, things settled down pretty nicely (plus the wind and seas typically don’t come up until the afternoon).  We hugged the mainland side of Greece since this would put us in Albanian waters the quickest.  As the wind and swells began to increase again, we decided to pull into a small bay in Albania to anchor for the night.  Unfortunately, the best places to anchor were all buoyed up with fish farms.  We tried one potential spot off of a beach and quickly decided it was not the right place for us.  It got deep very quickly, and closer to shore put us uncomfortably close to the rocky land surrounding the shoreline.  We gave up.  We pulled on our big boy pants and headed out into the teeth of the sea once again.  Between the strong wind on our nose, and the crazy sea state, the last bit of our journey was painfully slow even under two motors.  We pulled into the bay of Saranda, Albania and were a bit surprised by the number of boats already anchored (and the majority were catamarans!).  We chose a spot that wasn’t too deep and respectfully spaced from our neighbors.  Unfortunately it landed us right in front of all the big pirate boats that take all the tourists out on excursions.  This meant non-stop loud music and very close encounters as they came and went.

One of our all time favorite bays- Two Rock Bay in Greece. And blissful relief from the waves…
Underway before the sun is up makes for a pretty sunrise
VIDEO: Force 5-6 winds entering Sarande, Albania. We were glad to drop anchor soon…
Dropped anchor maybe a little close to the excursion boats! It was ok in the end.

Our original plan had been to stay one night and then be on our way to Italy.  The weather had a different plan.  We check forecasts using 4-5 different models every morning and every evening.  Each time, it was the same….winds gusting high (not a huge deal) but the swells were more of the same (quite large and short periods).  Since we would be doing an open water passage over 14+ hours, we had no interest in getting beaten up for that long.  So, we settled in to enjoy the town of Saranda.  Wanting to try some new places, we stumbled upon this cute little restaurant up a hill that had the most amazing roasted lamb and goat on a spit.  I think it was some of the best we have ever had.  At night, the seafront lit up with bright lights and loud music from every direction.  Sunday night brought a live performance that we enjoyed from the serenity of our boat.  We finally found our hole in the wind and seas to make our crossing.  We were up at 4:45 a.m and underway by 5:00 a.m.  Dan called me a whirling-dervish.  In those 15 minutes, coffee was made, hatches were closed, instruments on, everything stowed, and anchor up. Check!

The roasted goat and lamb at Restaurant Isufi was amazing. We’ve found the farther from the waterfront the better the food tends to be.
Sarande by night. Night clubs blast music and then several times a day the mosque broadcasts a Muslim prayer (Albania is predominantly Muslim). Quite the juxtaposition.
Dan heading into visit our agent Jelja who assists with the official paperwork needed to enter and exit Albania by boat.

It turned out, we exited at just the right time.  As we crossed the channel, we watched a huge cruise ship, carrying 3000 people, enter the small port of Saranda.  Yikes, glad we weren’t there for that inundation of people.  We quickly settled in for our long passage to Italy.  As predicted, there was very little wind and the seas were tolerable despite the high winds of the night before.  A few hours in, I took my shift at the wheel.  Up to this point, all had been quiet with very little boat traffic anywhere near us.  About two hours in, I noticed 3 different boats on our instruments making their way towards towards us.  I pulled them up and quickly realized they were cargo ships.  Two were coming at me from one direction and one was coming at me from the opposite direction.  I held my course and tracked them incessantly.  When you are watching them with your eyes, they appear to be coming right for you.  I carefully monitored their track on our screen which lets me know how long until we intercept and at what distance.  In the end, the closest one passed by at .3 miles (but when you see the enormity of their size near you, you swear you can reach out and touch them!)  Wouldn’t you know, that was the only ships or even boats that came anywhere near us.  Always my luck!  Sure enough, as I took my final watch, I got to play frogger with 1 more cargo ship.  Dan’s shifts….no boats of any kind!

Passage plan from Albania across to Italy
Robyn playing high stakes frogger with passing commercial vessels. The screen grab is one of our AIS displays which shows commercial ships over a certain size.
Meanwhile, Dan fishes….

We pulled into Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy just before sunset and got ourselves anchored despite the barrage of sightseeing party boats coming in and out.  Unfortunately, it was too late for us to do formalities (check in to the country), so we had to stay on board for the night.  We headed to the Coast Guard office promptly at 9:00 a.m. (not before wandering the streets for a bit trying to find them).  Struggling through the language barriers, we discovered that we had to check in with customs and immigration first which required them to call them up and send someone from an hour away to check us in.  So, we waited.  The two guys showed up 1 1/2 hours later.  Once again, it was a comedy show of struggling through our language barriers, and a long phone call with someone higher up (I’m pretty sure I heard the word consulate).  We complicated things a little bit this year because we want to spend 4 months in Italy, and we are only allowed 3.  Our way around this was for Dan to check in using his Croatian passport.  It gets a little dicier for me.  The official wanted to make sure that we understood that we needed a marriage certificate and that we must be together at all times….especially when we go to leave the country.  Luckily Dan had spent months and months researching this, so we were well aware of the rules.  Next stop, back to the Coast Guard for our paperwork there.  It was now 11:45, and they close at noon.  Yikes!  We thought walking would be quicker (instead of taking the dinghy)…nope!  We ended up practically running since the path back did a lot of meandering.  We arrived at 11:55.

Land ho! The tip of the heel of the boot Italy comes into view.
Sunset over the anchorage as we wait for the officials to open up shop the next day
Santa Maria di Leuca lighthouse. Ships have come to grief on this point since ancient times.

Dan headed in while I waited outside in the heat.  Another round of humorous miscommunication ensued.  CG:  Where is your next port of call?  Dan:  TaRANTo.  CG:  Otranto?  Dan:  No, TaRANTo.  CG:  Otranto?  This went on for several rounds before Dan whipped out his phone and showed him on the map.  CG:  OHHH!  Taranto!  (According to Dan, it was only a slight variation in pronunciation).  They all had a big laugh.  All in all, this was probably one of the nicest check-ins (done without assistance….we love you Jelja and Sophia) we have ever been through.  Everyone was very friendly and super helpful.  We were now free to roam Italy!  Woo hoo!

Success…we are now free to roam Italy!

Back on the boat, and we were underway by 12:30.  Our next stop was the town of Gallipoli (about 4-5 hours away).  You may be wondering why Dan didn’t tell the Coast Guard that was our next port of call.  If you are at anchor, which we planned to be, then your are not required to check-in.  If you tie up to the city quay or go into a marina, then you must check in with the Coast Guard.  We were settled in around 5:30 and prepared to head into the town of Gallipoli.  Rather than take the dinghy for 10 minutes into the marina closest to the city, we opted to go into the marina near us and do the 20 minute walk.  After trying to talk to several different people (all very eager to help us….but again, no English), we determined that it was okay to leave our dinghy tied up where we did and still be able to return to it later in the night after they locked up.  Off we headed to the beautiful walled city of Gallipoli.  Unfortunately, the walk there was extremely intense.  For the first half, there were no sidewalks, and two directions of cars driving at very high speeds on a very narrow road.  While the locals had no reservations walking side by side, Dan and I were single file and contemplating plastering ourselves to the wall like Spiderman!  

Gallipoli comes into view
Aragonese castle in Gallipoli

Once inside the city walls, we were met with incredible beauty.  The architecture, the cobbled streets, the colors were a sight to behold.  Since it was already after 7:00 p.m., we decided to go grab dinner before things got really crowded.  We found a highly reviewed restaurant tucked up an alley with local Salento specialties.  We sat staring at the menu.  I am sure you’ve already guessed… English.  With handy Google translate, we began to decipher the menu.  Since some of the words were about the style of cooking, they did not translate.  There were several horse meat dishes on the menu (um, that’s a big hell no!).  My eye caught on the either the lamb dish or the octopus dish.  Dan had the clever idea of putting the information into searching for recipes.  That worked perfectly in describing the dish.  That also meant that I learned that the lamb dish I was planning on having was actually lamb entrails (tripe).  Ummm, that would be a big no again.  Octopus it is!  It turned out to be a very enjoyable dinner of local specialties.  From there, we wandered the alleyways for awhile and popped into this adorable little Christmas shop (I like to buy ornaments from the places we travel).  By 9:30, the city was hopping and the streets were packed with people.  It became very overwhelming and less than enjoyable, so we made our way back to the boat.  This town is definitely on my list of places to return to and spend a lot more time (preferably not in the heart of summer tourism).

Trying Salento style cuisine in Gallipoli. We stayed away from the horse and lamb intestine…
Google translate to the rescue…Salento style cuisine features horse meat. That’s a big heck no!
Salento style slow cooked octopus in a red pignata sauce
Unexpected find…a Christmas store in July!
Wandering charming Gallipoli

The next morning it was time for us to continue our journey further into the Gulf of Taranto and the actual city of Taranto.  I think we are due for one more misadventure before closing out this chapter of our story.  Our plan was to leave at 7:00 a.m, but the sea decided it was not going to release us without a little bit more drama.  As I began pulling up the anchor, I noticed this very odd shadow coming up as well.  Uh-oh, that’s not good.  As it came to the surface, I saw that a fisherman had laid his trap lines across our anchor chain (also knocking our bridle off in the process…..grrrr).  It took Dan and I both to get it untangled from our bridle while little crabs, worms and other sea floor debris littered our deck.  Dan was ready to just cut the trap line, but with a little work, we were able to free it without costing the fisherman his trap.  NOW, we were ready to go.  This would be an 8 hour passage, but the wind was perfectly positioned for a really nice sail.  We have been here almost 3 weeks and have had the sails up twice for a small bit of time. The forecast did not let us down, and we are currently flying up the gulf at 6.5 knots in 15-20 knot winds from the stern.  I am going to close this here since it is already getting pretty long.  Stay tuned for our adventures in our next ports of call as we take you on a tour of this beautiful country.

Heavy fish trip snagged in our anchor chain! It took two of us working for a half hour to finally get free.
Passage plan – Gallipoli to Taranto

Welcome To 2023 Aboard Zoe

It still feels a little unreal that we are finally back in Greece.  We had a very busy and exciting off season home (well, more like 2 actual seasons)!  As you may remember, we closed on our new build last August.  We flew home long enough to attend my son’s wedding, close on the house, and move all our stuff into the new house before jetting back to the boat.  When we arrived back home at the end of our sailing season, there was much to do.  We spent a big chunk of our winter getting settled into the house, getting our backyard landscaped, meeting new neighbors, and enjoying reuniting with family and friends.  We also spent a great deal of time exploring the miles and miles of amazing trails that lie just outside our front door.  Thanks to a very mild winter and spring, we were gifted with the opportunity to hike well into June!  Needless to say, we LOVE where we live!  

Exploring the desert around our new home
Winter rains brought great wildflowers to the desert
Red tail hawk fledglings in the nest
Redtail hawk parent circling protectively. Her shrill cries were amazing
Climbing to the top of a local mountain.
Exploring by Jeep
Summit views!

We had several other exciting life events during our time home this year.  We were on baby watch for two new grandchildren.  We were blessed with our first granddaughter the end of May (and boy is she a cutie)!  We are still awaiting the arrival of our second grandson….unfortunately, he is not due to arrive until late July, and we are here.  It’s getting harder and harder to be away from our littles.  We did get to spend a lot of time bonding with our first grandson, Owen, and it’s been very hard to be away from him.  Nothing is more heartbreaking than that little face looking up at you with the words, “Why do you have to go back to the boat?  I want to go to the boat with you.”  Ouch…..cue tears.  Other exciting news….my son, Richard, is now engaged and will be getting married next spring.  And lastly, Dan’s son Jacob landed his first “real” job working for Intel in the state of Oregon (which necessitated Dan taking a week to drive a moving truck to help Jacob get moved settled into his new life).

Baby Shower – family is getting larger and larger!
Welcoming baby Scarlett to the world
Happy grandma
Cousins meet for the first time
Teaching how to cook
Moving day for Jacob – 1200 miles from Phoenix to Oregon

Needless to say, all of these exciting events meant a much later start for Zoe’s season (and possibly a future restructuring of what our sailing season will look like moving forward).  Most years, we spend the night in London before moving on to Greece the next day.  This year, we decided to fly all the way through.  When I say that, I mean several layovers and no overnight stay anywhere.  Unfortunately, between the layovers and a very delayed flight from Gatwick, UK to Preveza, Greece meant our trip took us over 30 hours with little to no sleep.  Yep, it was painful.  Lesson:  Overnighting in the UK had many benefits.

By the time we got settled into our rental apartment and took some time to relax, it was 2:00 a.m. before we got to bed.  Ughh….gonna be a rough day getting Zoe ready.  As expected, we were up quite early (4-5 hours of sleep) and aboard Zoe ready to work.  Oh boy, she was in a sorry state.  The 8 months had not been kind to her.  Between the layers of dirt/staining and the gazillion cobwebs (yes, complete with horrid spiders), we felt very overwhelmed.  We dug in and began to put her back together and get her cleaned up.  We had 2 days to get her ready before she was scheduled to go back in the water….the shortest time we had ever given ourselves to get her ready.  By the second day, we were both having a panic attack.  We figured that as long as we did all the below water line stuff on land, it would be no big deal to do all the above water line stuff while on the water in the marina.  Yeeeahhhh….scrubbing the stains and dirt on the hulls and deck took 2 days alone!  We ended up pushing our launch day by one more day in the hopes of getting more done.  The night before launch I started to feel uneasy about putting the mainsail up while we were in the water (we had already put the genoa up).  At 9:30 p.m, Dan and I started putting up the mainsail.  This is our biggest sail, clumsiest to work with, requires hardware/tools/goop for the screws(tef-gel), and insertion of battons.  To add to the fun, we were both being brutally attacked by mosquitoes! Oh, and let’s not forget that it is now dark out.  All I can say is that I am very grateful that we did this on land!  Between juggling all the pieces and incessantly smacking mosquitoes, I dropped a few pins and screws several times.  Had we been on the water, they would have been gone forever.  We finally got it done despite some serious sailor potty mouth (okay, that was me)…..but you gotta understand, I am wrestling with the sail and hardware while jumping and dancing around as I am being devoured by mosquitoes.

First day back to Zoe after her almost 8 month hibernation
Re-rigging sails stored for winter
The rigging queen hard at work
Zoe on the move. There’s over two thousand boats in the area yards

They say the word boat stands for “break out another thousand.”  I’m starting to believe that!  We sent our life raft in for inspection at the end of last season.  When we called to arrange to pick it up, we were informed it was not serviceable (pictures pretty much confirmed that it was a disaster).  New life raft, check.  Then, we discovered one of our refrigerators was not cooling.  This was our main food fridge.  Can you say food poisoning?  Yeah, no thanks.  We got someone out to look at it….nope, can’t be fixed… fridge on order from Athens.  Arrrghhh.  Boats can be a lot of fun….but they are also a royal pain in the ass!

Local refrigerator technicians on the scene
Tasty octopus at a nearby taverna

Let’s talk about something more lighthearted and amusing.  Before we get underway, we do a big provisioning in order to allow us to be off the grid and not need to go to shore unless we want to.  Large grocery store runs are common among boaters and typical for Americans but highly unusual for Europeans.  In any grocery store, you will see them with a small cart or basket with supplies for only the next day or two.  Dan and I roll through with a grocery cart filled to the brim, since we freeze or vacuum seal most of our stuff (and we may be nowhere near any sort of market for weeks).  I’m not sure the locals appreciate the amount of time we take at the deli counter and checkout.  We also make a special trip to our favorite roadside produce market.  This is the most amazing place I have ever found.  Again, we have only seen locals here picking up a few things.  This produce and their products are straight from the local farms and actually keep for weeks!  We stock up on tomatoes, onions, English cucumbers, every color of pepper, garlic, cabbage, and potatoes.  In addition, they have the most amazing locally produced olive oil and dips.  Once again, we leave with our trunk filled with all this fresh goodness for very little money (and it is beyond delicious)!

Garlic as far as the eye can see. No vampires allowed!
Loving the fresh produce from the local farms

My next bit of fun was a haircut.  I had not had one in a very long time, and I felt kind of ratty.  I found I highly reviewed place on Google, and they were able to get me in the next day.  When I got there, the guy who does everyone’s hair didn’t speak a lick of English (and sadly, I do not speak Greek).  He and I had a lot of laughs trying to communicate what I wanted done and how to style my hair.  In the end, it worked all worked out (and I’m sure it was a memorable experience for both of us)!

Since we have to be back in Preveza when the refrigerator arrives, we decided to stay relatively close and cruise the landlocked Gulf of Amvrakia.  Very few boats venture into this gulf making it a very peaceful place to hang out during the height of cruising season where it’s tough to find a good spot to anchor, and you are at risk of playing bumper boats with those who choose to anchor to close to you.  The gulf is surrounded by wetlands and marshes which make it an amazing breeding ground for many fish, shellfish and birds.  Thanks to the richness of this environment, you can also find dolphins and sea turtles here as well.  Unfortunately, the green, murky water makes it less than desirable for swimming.

First dingy trip to port for some exploration
Byzantine church of Panagia Koronissia dating back to the 7th century
Ambracian Gulf views

We have anchored in this gulf a number of times but always stayed fairly close to the entrance near the town of Vonitsa.  This time we decided to venture all the way in to the easternmost point.  So far, we have explored two different anchorages with very tiny villages on land.  In our second anchorage, Ormos Koprainis, we decided to try the one and only taverna on shore.  It had really good reviews on the local seafood.  It is run by a 94 year old woman who we later discovered is deaf.  She also doesn’t speak a word of English (and there was no menu) which made our attempt at ordering dinner almost comical.  She pulled Dan into the kitchen where he discovered the only seafood today was anchovies and sardines.  Hmmmm…..neither are a big favorite, but why not?  Well, not quite sure what went wrong, but we ended up with a few beers, a plate of french fries, and a salad.  I guess the rest of the dinner will be happening back on the boat.

Local pony roaming free in the small village
Always great way to wind the day down

We’ve been away for quite some time, so I wanted to catch you up and welcome you back to Zoe.  While I know this is not our most exciting post, the real adventures are coming…..I promise.  Once we have the new fridge installed (hopefully in the next few days), we will be making our way out of Greece to Albania and onward to Italy.  It is our plan to do a deep dive of Italy and Sicily this year and say farewell to Greece (at least for the foreseeable future).  Stick with us for some new and exciting adventures…..and of course, the inevitable misadventures!

Sixth year of chasing sunsets on Zoe!

Farewell 2022 Sailing Season

After a couple of lovely nights in one of our favorite marinas (Preveza Marina), we headed to the swing bridge in Lefkada to while away the rest of our season in the southern parts of the Ionian.  Our first stop was Ormos Varko where we met some new American friends that Dan had been talking to in online sailing groups for close to a year.  We joined Steve and Emily on their boat for happy hour and had a great time getting to know them.  We spent several days anchored in the bay.  It’s  usually one of our favorite swimming spots, but unfortunately the outside temperatures had finally started to cool off making swimming not an overly appealing idea.

A few sleepless nights at anchor coming up!

Our next stop was Vlicho Bay, a favorite hidey hole for storms.  However, you might remember that we got hammered in this bay last year by strong winds and ended up losing our dinghy to a puncture wound.  We opted to anchor here for a few days in order to explore the town of Nidri (another one of my favorites) and pick up a new guest.  Dan’s friend and colleague from his civilian Navy days happened to be in Italy, so he flew over to Preveza to join us for some time on Zoe.  We decided to rent a car and go pick him up at the airport so we could take him to some of our favorite spots (the olive oil museum, the Lefkada winery, and the town of Vassiliki).  Before heading back to the boat, we stopped at our favorite spot (Tom’s Sea Side Restaurant) for lamb kleftiko on the beach at the water’s edge.  Yum!

My friend Mark – a coworker from 20 years ago!
Enjoying some of our favorite Lefkada spots
Visiting a local winery
Beachside reunion dinner

The next day, the 3 of us were under way to the island of Kastos.  Mark enjoyed a swim in the beautiful bay that we had all to ourselves.  Afterwards, we headed around the point to town and hoofed it up the hill to the windmill bar for some cocktails and a sunset view over the sea (and Zoe, of course).  Since we wanted to show Mark as much as we could in the short time he was visiting, we headed out the next day to an anchorage we had never been to called Mytikas.  Once we had Zoe securely anchored, we headed into town for a walk and some exploration.  We wandered through the streets of this quaint little village before eventually stopping at a seaside taverna for an ice cold beer.

Underway to Kastos
Dropping anchor in a bay we had to ourselves
Visiting the Kastos Windmill bar
Dinghy ride back to Zoe
Some local Mytikas sites
The Mytikas beachfront

We had been enjoying a run of really nice days, so wouldn’t you know, it was time for some nasty weather to come through.  We decided to try the ne in Lefkada to ride out the weather.  At first, the owner of the pontoons tried to shoe us away.  Then, for some reason, he had a change of heart.  He and his helpers escorted us to a spot and told us to tie up side to.  Nobody was tied like this, so we felt a little awkward (especially as boats came in looking for space, and we were piggishly taking up 40 feet/12 meters of dock).  We wanted to hang a huge sign that said that we were told to tie this way!  The guy had wanted us this way because in the last big storm that came through, his charter boats and the dock all dragged because of the windage on the sides of the catamarans.  This way, our bow and stern were in the direction of the wind.

Zoe tied up 90 degrees opposite to everyone else

We showed Mark around Lefkada and that evening headed into town for Dan’s birthday dinner.  While talking with the owner of the restaurant, she told us that the weather system coming through was forecasted to be really bad and included tornado warnings.  Tornado warnings?!?  You have got to be kidding me!  I am glad we are not at anchor, but now I don’t want to be on a boat period!  Not even a half hour later, everyone’s phone went off with that severe weather alert… about scary.  Well, it did get very windy, and there were thunderstorms…..but no tornadoes (whew)!  The next day, we discovered that Steve and Emily were docked on a different pontoon down the way from us, so we invited them for happy hour on our boat.  We had an awesome night of stories and laughter (and way too much wine…but hey, we are safely docked so that’s ok).  Unfortunately, Mark would be leaving us soon, so we decided to stay on the pontoon since this was the closest point to the airport while staying south of the swing bridge.

Dan’s birthday dinner

We left Lefkada the day after Mark disembarked, and made our way to the island of Ithaca.  Our time was rapidly winding down, so this was as far south as we would go this year.  Unfortunately, another round of strong wind was headed our way, and we would not be protected in this particular bay.  As a matter of fact, both the islands of Ithaca and Cephalonia were going to get blasted by this system.  So, guess where we went?  Yep, back to Vlicho.  The wind came as predicted….gusting to 30 knots, but Zoe’s anchor held like a champ.  Needless to say, it was a sleepless night between the howling wind and making sure Zoe stayed put.  In the end, we spent 6 days here growing barnacles….but we had lots of fun.  We spent hours walking, went to a Greek night at a taverna with dancing and plate throwing, and found a new favorite place for lamb kleftiko.

Vlicho anchorage on Lefkas
Traditional Greek dance performance
Robyn armed with a plate to celebrate Greek style
Plates went flying!

We were now a week away from hauling Zoe out of the water.  We wanted to be somewhat close, so we headed back through the swing bridge and into the inland sea.  We anchored outside of a seaside village called Vonitsa.  We walked the town and then headed up the hill to the remains of a castle.  It had great views and was fun to explore.  At one point, we came upon a turtle on it’s back frantically paddling his legs in an attempt to flip over….not happening.  Dan graciously gave the guy a helping hand and put him right side up.  

Visiting the town of Vonitsa
Exploring the Venetian castle ruins
Castle view of Zoe anchored in the bay

We spent two nights in Vonitsa and decided it was time to move on.  We headed back north to a series of little islands (more like rock formations jutting out of the water).  There was no one anchored here.  This was not surprising since the depth was only 1.5 – 2 meters….we draw 1.3 meters, a little unsettling to say the least.  We got ourselves settled in and were treated to sea turtles and dolphins cruising by.  That evening, we decided to do a BBQ on the beach.  What a great way to end the season.  The swell came in during the wee hours of the morning sending us bouncing all around.  This made both of us a little nervous because we were anchored so shallow (we were worried that our rudders might ground out if the swell got any bigger).  We pulled up anchor and headed for Preveza Marina.  We spent 3 days here beginning the process of shutting Zoe down.  A week of rain was in the forecast, so it was important to get the sails down so they could be stored dry.

Visiting a deserted island
Dinghy to the beach for some fun
Grilling up some food for a senset BBQ dinner

Haul out day had arrived, and with it, pouring rain!  Every single year we’ve hauled out, we’ve been plagued with pouring rain.  This year was no different.  Luckily, it came without wind.  Last year, the wind was so fierce the marineros had to assist with their high powered dinghy to drag us off the dock.  So, Zoe is now on land, and we are hard at work getting everything stripped, cleaned and put away until we return next season.  We have come to the decision that we are ready to leave Greece behind and explore new horizons.  Our plan next season is to do a deep exploration of Italy, Sicily and Malta.  They say boats and plans are written in sand….haha, but that is our goal for next season.  Stay tuned next season for some new sights and adventures (finally)!  As always, we will be back in the off season to share some new land adventures.  Thanks for following along with us!

Robyn checking out the day’s specials in the Taverna kitchen
It always seems to rain on the day we haul out Zoe!
Robyn making end of season repairs
Stowaway kitty!
Zoe in her winter slumber

That’s a wrap for 2022!

145 nights in the water

1089 miles covered

37 nights at anchor

30 nights in a marina

47 days in the US in the middle of our season

Longest passage 171 miles

5 overnight passages

Arrivederci Italy!

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.

Zoe tied up in Marina Ragusa.
Sand sculptures on the beach at Marina Ragusa

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.

UNESCO town of Ragusa high in the hills
Strolling the beautiful park
War memorial in the park
Ragusa is surrounded by valleys. Very defendable location back in the day.
Shopping for unique Sicilian treats in town
View of the Baroque cathedral

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… 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).

Ornate church in Modica
Believe it or not you can eat this statue of chocolate
Marilyn Monroe in cacao!
Chocolate factory, Italian style
So. Many. To. Choose. From!!!
Strolling Modica with a pistachio cannoli.
Another fabulous church in the center of Modica

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.

Unesco town of Scicli – third stop soon the Baroque town tour
Every corner you turn it’s just beautiful
Late lunch in a cave in a hill
Back to the boat with chocolate booty

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.

Entering historic Siracusa harbor

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.

This is not what the marina promised us!
White caps while next to a dock. Not a great feeling. But we made it through!

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.

The ancient Greek theater of Siracusa
Theater is on the left….ancient skyboxes on the right?
Romans built there own theater for gladiator style performances
Marble quarry next door to the theater
Wandering the beautiful grounds of the Archaeological park

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.

Happy hour onboard our friends boat anchored nearby.
When they do after dinner aperitifs in Siracusa they do it right!
Wandering Siracusa duomo by night
Church in Siracusa Duomo
Artist painting Sicilian pottery

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.

Buying unique Sicilian spices at the street market
Dolphin sighting! And what a jump!
Sunset near Mount Etna as we head towards the Italian mainland
Dropping anchor at Capo Rizzuto on the mainland

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 🙁

Moonrise on Robyn’s watch
Sunrise is always the best part of an overnight watch!

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!

Safe passage from Italy to Greece. Time for Greek Ouzo!

Sailing Interruptus

It’s hard to believe we finally made it back! The trip back to the US was as painful as we expected, but luckily we gave ourselves plenty of days to get home. To briefly recap, we made the journey home back in mid July for my son’s wedding and to finally close on our new home. The wedding was held about 2 hours north of where we live (Phoenix) in a mountain town called Flagstaff. This is a great place for a July wedding in Arizona since it is about 20 degrees cooler (-11.1 degrees Celsius cooler) than where we live. The ceremony took place in the forest among the pine trees and was absolutely beautiful. It was a spectacular weekend of fun with family and friends. About 10 days later, we took possession of our new home. We ended up staying in Arizona a few weeks longer than we initially had planned in order to try and get somewhat moved into our home. In the end, we managed to get most of the way moved in, but there is still a lot more to do when we finally return for the winter (ugh).

Proud mom presenting her son for marriage
Beautiful ceremony in the pine forest of Northern Arizona
Now presenting the McCulloughs!
Move day at the new house we built. Had our grandson along!
A local kayak trip with some friends before heading back to Europe

August 27th arrived, and it was time to make our way back to Zoe.  The chaos of summer travel in a post pandemic era had not let up, and I was dreading making this trip yet again.  We ended up flying from Phoenix to Chicago (arriving at midnight) and spending the night before catching an early morning flight to London Heathrow.  We arrived in London around 11:00 pm and then had to take an hour long Uber ride to Gatwick Airport, where we spent another night.  Bright and early the next morning, we caught our flight to Catania, Sicily.  We made it out of the airport only to discover that we had missed the bus to Licata by 5 minutes.  To make matters worse, they had cancelled the next bus which meant we had to sit at the airport (on a concrete bench) for 2 hours before the next bus.  Since this now put us in rush hour, our 2 hour bus ride took closer to 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We left the US Saturday afternoon and did not arrive to Zoe until Monday evening.  Needless to say, I was not a very happy person when we finally made it back to Zoe.  Hopefully, the journey home at the end of October will be far less painful  🤞.

Well, now that you are all caught up, let’s resume our journey in Sicily.  Since we arrived in Licata with little time before our departure, we decided to spend some extra time here and do a little exploring (plus we had our spot in the marina paid until September 6th…..why let that go to waste?).  The marina here is quite nice.  There are a couple of restaurants onsite, a supermarket within walking distance, and the breakwater is constructed in a way that provides an excellent (and very popular) exercise route.  About halfway down the breakwater, you will encounter about 20 cats and a cat condominium (I kid you not!).  Okay, so I don’t really think the little trailer is strictly for the cats, but we aren’t entirely sure who the little trailer belongs to.  The cats are definitely inhabitants, but I’m pretty sure they are not the ones responsible for the empty beer bottles.  Since it sits perched over a fish farm below, we theorize that it’s more of a watch station for someone (I can only imagine the way it looks inside with all those cats running around 🤢).  If you walk in the opposite direction, you will find one of the tallest lighthouses in Europe and a beautiful monument to the fallen and missing Italian sailors at the port entrance.  Just beyond the port, there is a huge expanse of beautiful, sand beach and a large swimming area nestled inside a reef.  Unlike cat alley, this area was home to lots and lots of stray dogs.  One in particular decided to befriend us for our entire beach walk.  Ironically, when a couple of barking dogs charged towards us, our little buddy barked back, and they turned around a left us alone.  I guess he advised them that we were okay people…..haha.

One of the tallest lighthouses in Europe.
Cat sanctuary…there were so many!
Breakwater cats of Licata
A statue to safeguard the local fisherman

A few fun facts about Sicily in general… is the biggest and most highly populated island in the Mediterranean.  It is also one of the hilliest and most mountainous parts of Italy.  Interestingly, you will find a tremendous amount of Greek influence here in Sicily as they founded many of the coastal cities which still exist today.  As a result, there are some incredible, well preserved ruins of temples, theaters and monuments left behind from ancient times.  Okay, enough of the history lesson.  There is a method to my madness.  I tell you all of this as a precursor to our latest excursion off the boat.

A 45 minute drive outside of Licata brought us to the hilltop city of Agrigento, home to the Valley of the Temples.  We spent several hours wandering the vast archaeological site which is home to many well preserved Greek temples.  In an effort to not bore you with too much of a history lesson, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Valley of the Temples
The sights from antiquity were amazing
Exploring the ruins
Last remnants of an ancient Toga party

After thoroughly exploring the grounds in the blazing, hot sun, we headed off to our next excursion.  We drove through the town of Naro where a castle sits upon the highest point.  Here, we found breathtaking views of the valley below and the sea just beyond.  We did not spend a lot of time here since we had an appointment at a local winery for a tasting and lunch.  We arrived at Bonsignore Vineyard where we were greeted by the owner.  He and his wife had basically sold up everything to buy the vineyard and accompanying villa.  They had renovated the villa as their home and over time, have plans to create rooms for guests to spend time in the vineyards.  We began our adventure in their courtyard where we were treated to a tasting of 3 of their wines.  Each one was quite delicious (and award winning).  We were then able to choose a bottle to accompany our luncheon.  The lunch was also spectacular.  We experienced 4 or 5 different courses made of local, organic ingredients specific to the region.  After our extremely filling lunch, we wandered out to the vines where we learned a little about the grapes, their progression from vine to wine, and had a little taste straight off the vine.  Since we were the only 2 at the vineyard, it was really a unique and special experience.  In case you were wondering…..yes, of course we bought some bottles of wine to bring back to the boat (and they gave us a couple of bottles of their house made olive oil)! YUM!

The mountain town of Naro
Castle at the top of the hill
Luigi explaining the organic wines made at the vineyard
A wonderful picnic lunch on the winery grounds
Exploring the vineyard- it’s close to harvest time
Luigi and his wife (the winemaker) made for a great day!

It was an amazing day.  We love our time on the sea, but the best part of being in this part of the world is exploring the past and immersing ourselves in the culture, people and places.  We plan to spend a few more weeks in Sicily before making our way back to Greece.  While we won’t have time to see all the places we had hoped to, we do plan on returning soon.  This year our focus will be exploring the southern and eastern portions of Sicily itself.  When we return, we will focus on the remaining coastline and the surrounding islands.  Before I leave you here in Licata, one more fun fact about this area….Licata was one of the first cities liberated during WWII by American and British forces in 1943… cool is that?  Anyway, we are thrilled to be back on Zoe and will be getting underway soon.  Our plan is to get set sail tomorrow morning and make our way 6 hours east to the town of Ragusa.  Standby for more adventures from the beautiful island of Sicily!

Sicily Here We Come!

Sadly, our time in Crotone had come to an end.  This place definitely holds a special place in our heart after spending time here, and I would have loved to stay longer, but it was time to get some miles on.  We had our weather window, so we bid farewell to Crotone at 12:30 in the afternoon for our 23 hour passage to Sicily.  I’m always scheming to try and minimize my time on shift in the dark, but somehow I always manage to screw myself.  This time was no different.  I managed to have the shift leading up to and well past sunset and then again several hours up until sunrise.  Dan gets one shift in darkness, and I seem to always end up with two.  Like I said, I do this to myself…..EVERY TIME!

The passage was pretty uneventful with very few cargo ships and fishing boats around to give me grief.  Once dawn approached, Dan decided to throw out a couple of fishing lines and try our luck.  About an hour out from our destination, he managed to snag a tuna and spent the next half hour bludgeoning it to death and bleeding it out.  We now had a beautiful 10 pound bluefin tuna…..yum!  Of course, the back of our boat now looked like a murder scene…..who knew tuna had so much blood!  We pulled into the anchorage of Naxos below the beautiful, hilltop town of Taormina and the smoking beauty of the volcano Mt. Etna.  Before long, another catamaran came in and dropped anchor near us, and much to our surprise, they were flying an American flag!  When the back of their boat became visible, we saw that they were registered in Dallas, Texas.  It’s not often we run into Americans on our journey, so of course we had to invite them over for drinks and stories that night.  This very young couple had taken a sabbatical from work, bought a boat, were logging some serious miles throughout Europe before sailing the boat back to America this winter.  We were seriously impressed!

Caught a tuna just outside of Taormina Sicily!
Sushi anyone?

We planned to spend two days at anchor before moving over to the mooring balls at the other end of the bay to pick up our guests and explore the sites.  I awoke the next morning at 5:00 a.m. to the boat pitching around wildly.  Apparently the Straits of Messina were blowing strong again which sent 3-4 foot rollers into the bay and directly into the side of our boat.  We rode it out for a few hours hoping it would die down, but it only got worse.  When things started crashing to the floor and toppling INSIDE the cabinets, we decided it was time to go.  Luckily, the mooring ball field was very sheltered from the swell and could take us earlier than we had originally planned.  As we made our way across the bay, I went to the front to get our lines ready.  Not my brightest move.  A roller came, and I felt the deck drop out from under my feet….oh this was not going to end well.  As it flew back up and crashed back under my feet, I tossed my body onto the deck top and held on.  I decided to finish the lines in calmer water.

Mt Etna billowing smoke makes for an atmospheric anchorage

Before long, our friend Tim and his son joined us on Zoe.  We had big plans the following day.  We would take the bus up to the beautiful city of Taormina and explore for a few hours before meeting our driver and guide who would be taking us to explore Mt. Etna.  We wandered the streets of Taormina taking in all the beautiful buildings before wandering up to an Ancient Greek Amphitheater.  Unfortunately, it was a blistering hot day, and we were all struggling with the oppressive heat.  Soon it was time to head  back down to the bus depot to meet our driver.  We all prayed he had a car with air conditioning.

The gang headed in for a day of exploring the charms of Sicily
Wandering the ancient cobblestone streets of Taormina
The Dallas roomies back together again (though missing one!!)
Quintessential Italia!
Exploring some Roman ruins
The ancient roman theatre of Taormina
Taormina at night from the mooring field

We met our driver and guide and headed out on our hour and a half drive up to Mt. Etna.  It truly is a magnificent volcano to see up close and personal.  We made several stops on our drive up where we explored the topography of the volcano, the resulting landscape changes from eruptions, and talked about the history of the volcano.  It is THE most studied volcano in the world because of it’s unique nature.  The summit area consists of 4 summit craters.  Another part of our excursion had us putting on hard hats for an exploration of an amazing lava tube.  We descended deep into the depths of this tube complete with dripping stalactites.  It was wonderfully cool down in the tube.  We were told if there was any seismic activity, access to the tubes would be forbidden due to the dangers.  After we learned about the tubes, we headed off to some hiking trails through the volcanic sands.  Here we had some amazing views of the surrounding area and some of the ancient craters.  The diversity of landscape on the mountain is incredible.  Some areas look like you are on the moon, and other areas are rich in birch trees and abundant greenery.  Sadly, we did not see any lava flows or cool stuff like that.

Our volcano guide meets up with the gang
All geared up for some subterranean exploration!
Down the lava cave we go!
Hiking near the summit. Views were amazing
Glorious day hiking Mt Etna’s lava fields!

The next day, it was time to get underway again.  Our next stop was the city of Siracusa (Syracuse).  We left early as this would be an 8 hour passage.  The best part….we FINALLY got to sail!  Well, at least 1/2 of the trip.  Once we lost the wind, our journey got very hot again, so the 3 guys decided to jump off the back of the boat into the deep sea (7000 feet/2133 meters deep)!  Luckily we threw out a line and float because the current was moving away from the boat at a pretty good clip.  I managed to make them squirm a little when I joked that I could just sail off and leave them there floating if they made me mad.  Yeah, it was a little mean….haha.  Once they were cooled off, we got moving again.  A few hours later, we spotted our first shark….EVER.  We have never, ever seen a shark in the Med.  I must admit, it was a little freaky (and I’m not sure the guys will jump into the deep sea again anytime soon).  We were then treated to dolphins a couple hours later.  There were several pods busy playing and before long they came to the boat to play in our bow spray.  This is one of our most favorite treats when we are out sailing.

Underway to Siracusa
Swim stop in over 7000 feet of water! It was a hot day!

We anchored in the big bay outside of Syracusa.  This was another amazing walled city filled with Ancient Greek history (yes, you read that right….Greek artifacts).  We visited the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the Fonte Aretusa which is a fountain fed by a fresh water spring and home to the only natural Papyrus growing in Europe.  We visited the Fontana Diana which dates back to the 9th century.  We enjoyed strolling the cobblestone streets and winding through narrow pathways.  We found a quaint little restaurant down one of these narrow pathways and enjoyed a very nice dinner off the beaten path and out of the tourist areas.  Our original plan was to spend 2 days here, but we have been in a brutal heat wave and where we were anchored was not really swimable (harbor bay….yuck) so no way to keep cool.  We decided to leave the next day and head down to a bay where we could anchor and spend the day swimming.

A greek temple turned into a church
Fountain of Diana in Siracusa
Temple of Apollo
Arethusa Fountain
Piazza Duomo Siracusa

Once again, we were able to sail most of the 4 hour passage to our next stop….Isola di Capo Passero.  The swimming was awesome except for the jellyfish that kept cruising through.  The next morning we took the dinghy to an island between the two bays.  We pulled it up on the beach and walked the path up to the ruins of a castle.  We then motored over to the end of the island in search of the marble remains from a ship that sunk during Roman times.  Tim’s son jumped from the dinghy into the water to try and spot it, but it was really hard to find among the rocks and plant life on the sea floor.  Our plan was to leave that evening and make an overnight passage to our final destination in the town of Licata.  Since we had some potentially high winds with swell getting around the point, we decided to pull up anchor, get around the point, and find another nice bay to hang out in and swim until we ready to leave that evening.

Exploring the castle and monument at the southernmost cape of Sicily

Once we got past the point, we found a nice spot to anchor and swim.  The water was refreshing and crystal clear.  All seemed well until those lovely jellyfish made their appearance.  This time, the guys spotted one that was 18” (.46 meters) in diameter….YUCK!  Just before 7:00 p.m., we were underway for our overnight passage.  Man, we’ve done a lot of these in the short time we’ve been here!  As forecasted, the wind was a little blustery (on the nose) and the water was a little choppy.  This time, I took the 10-2 shift. This was one of my least favorite passages thanks to all the fishing boats that were out at midnight.  They are not on our AIS tracking system which makes it hard to see what direction they are going or how far away they are.  At one point, I had one coming straight at me!  I deviated my course 10 degrees, and he continued to come straight for me.  I ended up changing my course 30 degrees further, heading toward shore and was shocked at how close he passed beside me despite my change in course.  I was not a happy camper.  Before long, I noticed 2 more fishing boats heading in to port.  Once again, they were headed my way.  At that point, I fired up our second motor and zoomed out of their way.  I was finally clear of the bay and the busy ports deep inside.  By the time Dan came up for the 2-6 a.m. shift, I was pretty worn out from the stress of playing chicken with the fishing boats.  He told me later that his shift was very peaceful and quiet.  Of course it was!

Overnight passage coming up!

So, here we are in the marina at Licata.  Our guests disembarked here, and we have been busy getting the boat cleaned up and ready for a temporary shut down.  We were happy to be in the marina today as the winds kicked up to 30 knots with 40 knot gusts…..not fun!  This will likely be our last post for a bit as we are heading home on Sunday.  We will leave Zoe here in the water for the next 4-6 weeks and return home for my son’s wedding and the close on our house (finally)!  Super exciting events, but dreading the trek home in the middle of busy, summer travel time.  We will be back with more adventures sometime in August!

Beat some weather in and are now snugged up in a marina in Southern Sicily
Zoe’s temporary summer home
Our Sicilian wanderings so far….

Benvenuto in Italia (Welcome to Italy)!

After picking up our documents to officially check out of Albania, we were underway for Italy at 5:00 p.m.  Since we had never been to Otranto and were unsure of where to handle all the formalities of checking in, Dan decided to hire an agent to assist us with the paperwork. When we were last in Italy in 2018 (our first year onboard) we did it incorrectly and narrowly avoided a problem.  This time we wanted to do it right. Since Otranto is not a major port of entry, we were told we need to arrive very early because the officials were only there for a few hours in the morning (hence the 5:00 p.m departure the day before).  This was slated to be a 13 hour passage with no real wind to sail with.  As we got outside the bay, the seas were a bit bigger than forecasted (shocking, I know) and the winds were up, but straight on our nose.  This still meant no sailing, but it also meant slowing us down quite a bit.  I opted to take first shift since I prefer to ease myself into driving in the dark.  Unfortunately, by doing this, I inevitably end up doing double nighttime shifts and Dan only gets the middle (I think I may need to rethink my strategy).

Sunset on our passage across the Adriatic
Land ho!

Our passage across the Adriatic was pretty uneventful, and we arrived bright and early at 5:00 a.m. (managed to shave an hour off despite the slow start).  We dropped anchor in a beautiful, sandy bay and headed down for a nap.  Not long after falling into a deep sleep, the agent called to tell us he arranged a spot on the wall for us, and we needed to come right now.  So, up we popped to pull up the anchor and head into the quay.  We quickly tied up and Dan bugged out with the agent to get us formally checked in to Italy.  Ironically, all the officials were housed right behind us (probably could’ve saved some agent money there, but who knew?).  We were a short walk to the castle walls and cobblestoned streets.  Inside the walls were lots of lovely little shops and restaurants.  The next day, we rented a car and headed inland to the town of Lecce, known as a “foodie” city.  We entered one of the gates to this ancient walled city and set off to explore.  Lecce is known for it’s Baroque buildings and is over 2000 years old.  It is nicknamed the Florence of the South.

The charming medieval town of Otranto
Zoe tied up to the transit dock. Coast Guard, immigration and customs were right behind us
Aragonese castle. Famous as a staging ground for numerous crusades
We love strolling Italy! So picturesque.

Our first stop was Museo Faggiano.  This was a private house up until 2001 when during renovations, the owner discovered archaeological  remains dating back 2500 years ago.  He discovered cisterns, secret passageways, tombs, skeletal remains, a Knights Templar fresco, and many other treasures.  It took them 7 years to fully excavate the site which they turned into a museum open to the public in 2008.  The building dates back to pre-Roman times.  It is said to have been a Knights Templar house between 1000-1200, and then a Franciscan convent until 1600.  We spent a great deal of time exploring every nook and cranny of this fascinating piece of history.

Down into the secret tunnel of Knights Templar
“If God is with us who can be against us?” Inscription on found wall
Very narrow stairs into very small tunnels!
Secret room beneath the main house
Pottery shards and remnants from a time long past
We really enjoyed this unique museum.

From there, we headed to the ancient Roman Theater from the 2nd century(not discovered until 1929).  Although we were not able to explore the interior, we did get some great views from above.  After that, we were off to explore a number of spectacular churches.  Each one we walked into was more incredible than the previous one.  Here again, I will let the pictures tell the story.

Ancient Roman theatre
Robyn getting a custom apron. It says “Robyn cooks from the heart” in Italian
Strolling the streets of Lecce
One of Lecce’s fabulous churches
Architecture is amazing
Nice large glass of Moretti beer to cool off with!

After a couple of days, we were on our way once again.  Our next stop was Santa Maria di Leuca in order to position ourselves for our next big passage.  Here, we were at the very tip of the heel of Italy preparing to cross the Gulf of Taranto on a 13 hour passage to Crotone (located on the “ball” of the foot/boot).  The gulf can blow some pretty big winds with choppy seas, so once again, timing was very important.  We decided to make this passage during the day with a 5:00 a.m. departure.  This would get us into Crotone while the sun was still up (important to us when anchoring in a place we have never been).  As continues to be our misfortune, what little wind we had was square on the nose…..more motoring!  We also learned that this part of the world is quite warm right now, so making this passage during the day was a dumb idea.  We were sweltering!

Lighthouse at the tip of the “heel” in Santa Maria De Leuca
Our passage across the Gulf of Taranto to Crotone

We arrived in the town of Crotone and dropped anchor in a big, beautiful bay surrounded by beach clubs, restaurants and a lungomare (seaside boardwalk) that went on for miles.  Luckily the depths were shallow enough that we were anchored pretty far out from the chaos.  The next morning we motored 2 hours north (yep, still not sailing) to a bay in Strongoli.  Our mission here was to search for the Italian ship (the Nave Petrarca) that Dan’s grandfather had died on when it was torpedoed by the British during WWII.  We had an approximate location, so this was going to be an interesting endeavor.  We stopped and asked 3 men fishing off their boat if they knew where the wreck was, and they pointed us in a general direction.  After searching for over a 1/2 hour on Zoe, and Dan searching by swimming while I used Zoe to try and hover near the supposed spot, we had no luck.  Dan then jumped in the dinghy to search further from Zoe while I remained on board watching him.  Eventually, frustration took over, and he decided to zoom over to another boat where a man was fishing.  Before long, they both came over to the boat where I used Google translate to explain what we were looking for a why (I then proceeded to butcher the language trying to read it to him).  He understood and knew exactly where to take Dan.  Dan followed him in the dinghy while I made notes of the land features of where they were.

Vincenzo leading the way to the wreck of the Nave Petrarca

Dan came back to the boat so that we could move Zoe closer to area (we had been nowhere near the pieces of the wreck).  As we motored over there, he told me that the man had invited us to have lunch with him (the first boat of fisherman had returned and one of them translated the lunch invitation).  We dropped anchor in very shallow water and Dan swam the pieces of the wreck.  This was a very special moment for Dan as he had never met his grandfather and had only heard the story from his dad growing up.  It took a fair amount of research (all in Italian) and it was gratifying to actually find it.  Article on the Petrarca and it’s demise is here:  

A piece of the wreckage

After spending time with what was left of the wreck (the torpedo had blown the ammunition ship sky high leaving only small pieces of debris behind).  We hopped in the dinghy and headed to shore to meet our new friend.  He did not speak English, and we do not speak Italian so this was truly an adventure.  We got in his car and he brought us to his home where he and his wife made us an amazing home cooked multi-course lunch with local wine.  After a couple of hours, we told them we had to leave because the winds were coming up and we had a marina awaiting our arrival.  Back on board, we spent two hours bashing back to Crotone (imagine that….going in the opposite direction and the damn wind was on our nose yet again!).  We came into the marina and tied to the quay.  After welcoming us, the marinero handed us a bottle of local wine to enjoy.  Wow!  On top of that, each morning we were brought freshly made croissants from a local bakery.  Holy cow, I love this place (my waistline, not so much).

New friends in crotone – Vincenzo and Chiara!
A Calabrian speciality called sardella. This yumminess is spread on bread with olive oil,
Homemade pasta with local red wine. Perfectly al dente and Tutti Bene!
Robyn trying local snails made in the Calabrese style

The next day, our new friends from Strongoli drove down to the marina and picked us up.  They drove us back to their town and up to the old city of Strongoli high in the hills to the cemetery where a memorial had been constructed to honor the lives lost on the Petrarca.  Once again, we would have never been able to find this treasure on our own as it was hidden in a lower courtyard of the main area of the cemetery.  His grandfather’s name was not on the memorial, and we learned that the names were for the bodies that were found (18 out of 82 lives lost….very sad).  We were then taken to see the castle and panoramic views of the old town where our new friends once lived.  From there, we headed back down to Crotone for some lunch.  They took us to this little local gem where you had to ring a doorbell for admittance to this beautiful little fish restaurant.  There was no menu (or English) so our hosts expertly ordered a fancy fish feast for us with very tasty local wine.  Numerous small plates of different fish came out for us to try.  It was an absolutely amazing lunch.  We returned to the boat and made plans to meet for a pizza dinner the next night.  We were told that Crotone has the best pizza outside of Napoli, and our friends have a Sunday night pizza tradition.  Mind you, neither of us still speak the others language, so watching our interactions was I’m sure quite amusing to those around us.  Google translate became our best friend on both sides!

Memorial to the lives lost in WWII on the Petrarca in Strongoli
15 February 1943 tragedy struck the Muzich family. Lost my grandfather nearby.
Strongoli castle
Hilltop views of Storngoli
Views from the town were amazing
Lunch with our new friends at Brizo in Crotone
Prawns made “crudo” style
Sardella (yum!) in the background and sardines with pickled onions
Pasta with sea urchin. First time for everything!

Once again, our friends arrived Sunday night (this time bringing gifts of homemade sardella and a huge can of locally produced olive oil).  They drove us to a beautiful spot on the water and a poolside table.  They ordered a delicious “pizza by the meter” with several different flavor sections.  It was excellent!  After returning to the boat, we enjoyed a quick apperitivo onboard (it was getting close to midnight).  We said a sad farewell to our new friends with a promise to reconnect when we return to Italy in August where they will hopefully join us for some sailing.

Pizza by the meter in Crotone

Our next journey was to Sicily and the town of Taormina.  This would be another 24 hour, round the clock journey.  We headed out of our beloved little marina spot a little after 12 noon.  Care to take bets on whether or not we sailed?  Of course, we did not!  There was either no wind or it was directly on the nose. The wind gods have not been playing nice with us so far this year 🙁

Sunset on our way to Taormina, Sicily

It was a pretty uneventful, overnight passage.  However, about an hour out of our destination, Dan landed a 10 pound (4.5 kg )tuna.  Woo hoo, yummy eats for several days!  So, we have arrived in Sicily and will keep you posted on our next adventures as we make our way around this beautiful island.

Bluefin tuna! Sushi coming up!
Overview of our journey from Albania to Sicily

The Treasures of Southern Albania

The last time we were in Albania was 2019 and unfortunately did not spend any time in the southern part.  We came into the port of Saranda, dropped anchor, checked out of Albania, and left bright and early the next morning for Greece.  This time, we decided to spend some quality time in this beautiful town.  It is a short hop from Corfu town, Greece to Saranda in Albania (3 hours).  After running the gauntlet of formalities in Greece, we were underway by 11:30 a.m.  We arrived in Saranda several hours later where we were greeted by our favorite agent, and she quickly handled all our formalities for us…, I love Albania!  Not only that, she directed us to the one mooring ball in the bay, told us there was no charge, and we could stay as long as we wanted!  We quickly got the lay of the land along with a multitude of suggested sites to visit and places to go eat.  We arranged for a car the next morning and were super excited for a full day of new adventures!  

Our journey since launch in Preveza. Stops at Two Rock Bay (mainland), Notos (Corfu) and Corfu old town on the way to Sarande, Albania
Tied to a mooring ball in Sarande bay, Albania

That evening we headed off to an authentic Albanian restaurant with very high reviews.  The place was unique in that there was no menu.  The sign at the door stated that you needed to be willing to eat the house preparations of the day.  Why not?!?!  The restaurant was owned and run by a young man named Leo who prided himself on home grown, organic ingredients prepared fresh daily.  We were treated to 14 small plates that offered up amazing and unique flavors of both Albania and Greece.  We then had a baked cheese with marmalade and a spinach Burek….both also very tasty.  We were then given a choice between fish, chicken or pork.  Dan opted for the fish, and I decided to try the pork.  As expected, the dishes were delicious, and the house made wine was also very tasty.  We were then treated to a complimentary dessert unlike anything we have ever had before.  The owner spent a great deal of time talking with us and sharing his background and the building of his special restaurant.  It really was one of the best experiences we have had in a very long time.

Oda e babes – a small restaurant that has a fixed menu of 14 Albanian appetizers. Yum!
Leo, the owner and chef took a selfie with us. He was very friendly and proud of his culinary creations

We got an early start the next morning in order to see as many sights as possible while we had the rental car.  Our first stop was Butrint National Park.  This is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country of Albania. The ruins are nestled into the forest with unusual pockets of water throughout the site.  Butrint was known for being one of the finest and most beautiful cities in the Roman Empire.  There is a picturesque lagoon and high mountains surrounding this park.  We spent two hours wandering this amazing piece of history.  As always, I will let the photographs tell the story.  Fortunately, we made sure to arrive early and often had many of the sites to ourselves.  By the time we left a few hours later, the hordes of tourists from the cruise ships had descended on this magical place.  We were very grateful to have had the peace and solitude to absorb the magnitude of Butrint.

Butrint, an ancient Roman settlement
Exploring the ruins
The grounds were very pretty
Mosaic from antiquity
Ruins of a temple
Roman theater
Original cup holder?
Oh hey!
We enjoyed wandering the grounds and exploring
Freed slaves would have their legal release inscribed for all to see on the walls.
A church was built at the settlement during later stages of the Roman settlement
Castle keep at the top of the hill
A Roman sculpture found on the grounds.
Fortress wall down to Lake Butrint
A gate in the fortress wall. Made small so that it’s easier to defend.
The grounds were filled with ruins

Our next stop was a site known as the Blue-Eye Spring.  After finding a parking spot (it was remarkably crowded), we set off on foot for about 3/4 of a mile up and down the winding road until we got to a path that followed a beautiful light blue river through lush, dense forest.  There is a platform built over the Blue-Eye to give you a better view.  This has become a very popular spot for people to jump into the icy blue hole.  The Blue-Eye is a spring which sends bubbly water up from more than 50 meters of depth (over 150 ft.).  We were told that they don’t know the actual depth because they have not been able to map it any deeper.  The water is crystal clear and icy cold (not that we went in it, but I trust what was written on the sign!).

The “Blue Eye” of Albania. A fresh water spring that flows so hard they can’t measure the depth
The blue eye – 18,400 liters a second of water!
The hike to and from was very scenic

From the Blue-Eye, we had a long and winding drive far up into the mountain region called Gjirokastra.  The drive was over an hour (and sometimes a little hairy with narrow roads and plunging cliffs devoid of guard rails), but the views were spectacular!  Not only that but some seriously wicked thunderstorms were brewing.  We parked our car and started up the roadway into this beautiful little town.  It reminded me of something you might encounter in the Swiss Alps.  The cobblestone streets were lined with all kinds of merchants, cafes and restaurants which we quickly passed by on our mission to get to the castle at the top of the mountain.  It was a long, steep, winding roadway to the very top where we were eventually greeted by the sweet, cold air in the castle entrance.  It always amazes me how hot it can be outside and how shockingly chilly it is within the castle walls.  The castle of Gjirokastra was built in the 4th century A.D., and was by far the most intact castle that we have seen.  It is also the biggest castle in Albania.  Gjirokastra is known as the “Stone City” since all the streets, homes and the bazaar are built of stone.

The town of Gjrokastra
Lovely cobblestoned streets to explore
The town was lined with restaurants and local artisan markets

When you enter the castle, you are greeted by a huge arsenal of weaponry ranging from prehistoric times up until WWII.  After leaving the weapons hall (considered the weapons museum), we wandered through the various rooms of the castle.  Much of it is kept in it’s natural state, as there was no lightening in many of the underground rooms (such as the prison cells).  We did our best to explore all of them but some became a little bit hazardous with only the light of our phone flashlight to illuminate our path.  By the time, we finished exploring the castle, the storm I mentioned earlier had made it’s way overhead.  The wind kicked up violently along with thunder and lightning.  Time to go.  We decided to take the more direct route down, a path through the forest with lots of stairs.  Needless to say, we hustled.  We also raced through the bazaar as rain and hail had begun to fall.  Since we were still pretty far from the car and hadn’t eaten yet today, we ducked into a small restaurant to enjoy some more Albanian food.  We enjoyed a very tasty lunch while the storm raged outside.  By the time we were finished, the storm had died off to a light rain, so we did a little shopping at the bazaar before heading to the car.  By the time we returned to Saranda, we had logged over 8 miles of walking and 22 flights of stairs.  We definitely felt our busy day and were pleasantly exhausted.  We returned the car and headed back to the boat for a relaxing evening.  

The castle’s artillery museum
Monument to soldiers from a bygone era
The castle keep, high on a hill overlooking the valley
Cold war story of an American fighter jet that was either shot down or ran out of fuel and landed in Albania. Story depends on the side who is telling it!
The US Air Force plane on display
Wandering the large castle grounds
Thunderstorm incoming!
Great meal while waiting for the storm to pass. Tave Kose (Lamb in Yogurt) with some appetizers. Tasty!

After taking the next day off, we decided to rent a car once again and head off in a different direction.  This time we made an hour drive down the coastline to a town called Porto Palermo.  Dan had been communicating through one of his Facebook groups with a couple from the U.S. anchored in the bay here, so we decided to meet up in person.  After a quick exploration of another awesome castle (Albania has no shortage of castles), we met our new friends for coffee and the chance to swap stories.  Meeting up with other cruisers is also an awesome way to find the best places to go and things to do (not to mention critical things such as where to anchor and safe places to leave your dinghy).  Soon it was time to head back towards Saranda.  This night, we had a reservation outside of town at a place called “The Mussel House.”  This was another highly reviewed restaurant on Lake Butrint where they raise and harvest their own mussels.  They are the biggest mussel distributor in Albania and are said to have the finest mussels around.  We had booked a private tour which took us out on a motorboat where we learned how the mussels are grown and harvested.  At one point, our guide pulled up a net of growing mussels and plucked a couple off which he then pried open with a knife.  We were handed the mussel and told to enjoy.  As soon as I had mine in hand, I felt a little squeamish.  I don’t eat raw oysters for a reason!  What am I going to do?  I can’t offend our hosts who are eagerly anticipating my thorough enjoyment of their highly touted mussels.  I popped it into my mouth where I was instantly greeted by the taste of salt water (yuck), then came the slimy texture.  Everything in my mouth and throat immediately shut down in protest.  I tried to bite into it, quickly realizing it was alive, and did they only thing I could….I swallowed it whole.  Needless to say, I did NOT enjoy the raw mussel and apologized profusely.  They of course laughed at my facial antics.  When we returned to the dock, our tour included freshly cooked mussels and wine.  Now, we are talking.  The mussels were fabulous!  Another great Albanian experience.

Porto Palermo castle
This was the home fortress for Ali Pasha (pictured on left) who was much feared when he ruled
Top of the castle overlooking the bay. Our new friend’s yacht is in the background on the right
Touring a mussel farm on Lake Butrint. They have a reputation for being the best tasting mussels in all of Albania. They call them the “Queen Mussels’
Our boat captain pulling up a mussel net to show us how they grow
He then pulled one off and shucked it for us
MMMM….raw and very fresh Albanian mussel straight from the lake
Robyn’s turn.. She ate it! A little reluctantly but no international incident!
After the tour, we had a huge bowl of the Mussels prepared in olive oil and wine. They were so good!

Saranda is a very busy beach town with a number of “pirate ships” that take tourists out.  They love to pass by our boat, very close, with their club music blasting.  This goes on very late into the night (or should I say, wee hours of the morning)at which time they are brightly lit up in an array of colors.  The clubs onshore also have their music blasting which is periodically punctuated by the minarets exotically chanting their call to prayer throughout the day and evening.  It’s a very exotic experience here in Saranda, with a cacophony of sights and sounds, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here (pretty obvious since we have been here a week!).  It is now Father’s Day, and we are killing time until our departure this evening for Italy.  We will leave Albania tonight around 5 p.m and arrive in Otronto, Italy tomorrow morning around 6 a.m.  Stay tuned for more fun as we make our way around the coast of Italy and Sicily.

This is what visiting by boat in a beach town looks like in Summer.