LOG #21f Siracusa & across the Strait of Messina

August 6, 2001 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 21 Malta, The Logs

LOG #21f Siracusa & across the Strait of Messina

Aug. 6, 2001
Split, Croatia
Covers the period July 17 to July 23, 2001

Siracusa was a good stopping off place, and one to which we may return on our way back out the Med in a year or two. There are many other things we want to see on Sicily, including a return to Etna, properly prepared with hiking boots and an early start to the excursion. There are also several archeological sites to explore. We found the information from tourist information booths incomplete, to put it politely. We did not get a complete itinerary for a day trip up to Etna, and had to wander all over the train station area in Catania to find out when, from where to where and when returning to get a bus to Etna. It is not simple.

As a port, Siracusa has a good free anchorage area in Porto Grande, which we used for several nights, and a free town dock with a few drawbacks in noise levels, and surges from certain directions. We went into the town marina for a day to avoid a gale coming through. It was barely adequate and expensive (60,000 Lire {$41.00 Canadian} for our 10 M boat for one night), with light floating pontoons that were wave swept in a south west force 6 or 7 wind.

We found a co-operative bookstore, staff speaking English, with internet access, and even a hook up to a telephone line. It is Libreria Aleph on Corso Umberto I, 106, phone number 0931 483085. They have printers, fax, charts, photocopying, and books in English. We were appreciative of their assistance. The market across from the Temple of Apollo was only OK. Local police were the closest we came to being able to officially check into the country, but we had no subsequent problems. When we went to Etna for the day, we left Veleda at anchor and Sprite at a friendly boat yard where they helped haul it out, covered it up, and drove us to the train station. When we returned in the evening I gave them a few beer as a thank you gift. All this was with very friendly people who did not speak any English.

At 0830 July 18 we set sail to cross the Strait of Messina, heading for Rocelle Ionica up the toe of Italy, an overnight trip of about 100 miles. While crossing the Strait, we could see Mount Etna with a cloud bank streaming down wind from the active volcano and at night could see with the binoculars a red glow at the summit.

We motor sailed most of the day with a light northerly wind which gave us an uncomfortable beam sea. Veleda’s engine started starving for fuel especially when heeled to starboard. On an even keel or heeled to port she was OK.  This lasted for several hours until by 1730 we turned the engine off, rather than alter course to correct the heel, and sailed, slowly at first, until the wind worked up to a force 6, causing us to reef the genoa and double reef the main. Pounding through a heavy beam sea at hull speed caused the dinghy tow starboard support bracket to fracture. No problem, as there were two other starboard attachment cross lines to support it until we lashed it down. The lashing held quite well until we replaced it with a shackle next day. But, clunks at sea are disconcerting.

The wind only lasted for a few hours before dying down to a light force 2, swinging southeast. We continued to motorsail and motor throughout the night. Judy had wrapped all the fuel lines with electric tape to restrict any air leaks into the fuel system, and this seemed to solve the problem of the engine dying when heeled to starboard.

Crossing the Strait of Messina from Sicily to the toe of Italy is a long stretch, especially as the closest harbour Saline Joniche (37 56N, 15 43E) is reported as all silted up with less than a metre at the entrance. As we approached our destination of Rocella Ionica shortly after sunrise, we saw  several boats exiting the harbour, one of which was Blue Highway who called us on VHF to say Hi and Goodbye, as they were making for another port further up to weather a forecast blow. We had an easy entrance into this large, well protected new marina with FINGER DOCKS! There was water on the docks, but no power yet. As the marina was not completed, a state it has been in for a year or more, and there was no marina staff, there was no charge for staying there as long as we wanted. We were secure alongside (38 19.7N, 016 26.0E) by 0700 July 19, my birthday, after a 23 and a half hour trip of 98.2 nautical miles.

We stayed in Rocella Ionica for three days, weathering a two day Bora with winds at 45 knots gusting up to 60. The marina is a good one and quite secure. There was a friendly and helpful relationship with the other boaters, especially during the height of the gale, helping each other double up lines for the storm. We tried to repatch Sprite (unsuccessfully), put a shackle on the dinghy tow starboard arm, and with some anti corrosion goop given to us by a French boat, fixed our bow mounted navigation light which had a habit of shorting out. We walked into town a couple of kilometers away, but did our shopping at a well equipped Spar store at the edge of town towards the marina. I got my bike operational for a ride around the town, and to explore the extent of the large marina complex and the beaches both sides. It will be a good first class marina if ever properly completed.

July 22nd we left late morning for another 25 hour 130 mile trip across the Gulf of Taranto (not Toronto) to Santa Maria di Leuca on the heel of Italy. More about it and our trip to Ortranto before crossing up the Adriatic to Dubrovnik in Croatia in my next log.