We finally decided to leave the comfort of Gaios and take the next step on our trip to Italy. Mark had planned the route, 181 miles to the town of Rocella Ionica located on the toe of Italy. The journey was scheduled to take about 31 hours, so I only had one-night sail to get through and there was a favourable weather forecast … hoorah.We left bright and early at 7am, however three large flotillas had arrived the day before, two from Sailing holidays moving their yachts to their summer base in the Ionian and a Seafarers group out of Corfu. The net result was a full town quay, so we had to squeeze our way out of our side on mooring, between two charter yachts that had done their best to hem us in.
As we cleared the Island of Paxos the wind increased to a steady 15 knots with a moderate sea state, a little bumpy but manageable. In order to engage the sails, we headed more north than we wanted and that made Mark a happy sailor, enjoying at least 6 hours of engine free, flappy sailing stuff . We had a passenger gate crashing for an hour mid journey.
Eventually though, we needed to get back on track, which meant having the wind on our nose, so we had to motor sail (what’s new) for the remainder of the trip. The seas remained bumpy and the wind increased as the evening approached. I took the first night shift between 22:00 pm and 01:00 am, there was no moon but so many trillions of stars in the sky, it was mesmerising. Up till this point, the only negative had been the number of container ships and fishing boats all seeming to want to steer directly at us.
I retired to bed after my shift, desperate for a few hours’ sleep. Unfortunately during Mark’s, the wind increased to 30 knots (on the nose of course), with rough 3 to 4 metre seas and just to add insult to injury, the tanker traffic increased exponentially. With sleep a lost cause, I joined Mark on deck to ‘enjoy’ the cold wind and bumpy seas. These are not Hudson’s favourite sailing conditions, he does not like the noise of the bow pounding into the waves. We were now making a little over two knots, I could crawl faster, so we made the decision to detour to Crotone.
The approach to Crotone is marked by four gas platforms, half a mile from the entrance to the marina. We finally arrived after 28 hours, three very tired sailors. I was happy to be on shore although we both continued to sway for the remainder of the day, even whilst sitting having a late lunch and a beer in the local bar. Our original plan was to leave the next day and continue onto Rocella Ionica, but the weather decided not to cooperate, we decided to stay for one more day. This then extended into five more days as we waited for the 30 knot winds to subside and turn in the right direction.
The town of Crotone does not have a lot to write home about, it is a very Italian town (Not many foreign tourists) with a long sandy beach, which I am sure will fill up when it finally warms up. The seafront area is quiet and tired looking … and very, very dirty, there is rubbish everywhere. Most of the buildings are in need of some TLC with paint flaking and covered with graffiti. However, when you go back a few streets you do find signs of life, with lots of shops and a great fruit and vegetable market.
Next to the marina is the fish market, with many warehouses and shops selling locally caught fish, which are plentiful and cheap … well a lot cheaper than paying for them in a restaurant. We bought two large salmon steaks (enough for at least two meals) and 3 kg of mussels (again feeding us for two days) for 19 euros.
We hired a car for 2-days to explore the Calabria region and on Friday 3rd May we started our exploration in the town of Pizzo.
The History of Pizzo begins in 1300 with a community of Basilian monks, the name translated means bird beak or projecting point, which fits perfectly with the promontory on which it sits, that juts out into the sea. The main attraction is the Aragonese castle, where the deposed king Gioacchino Murat was imprisoned and later executed after attempting to regain control of the kingdom. The castle was erected in the late 15th century with its famous quadrangular structure. The other attraction is the church of Piedigrotta located on the beach, which dates back to the 1600’s when the captain of a ship about to be wrecked on the rocks, prayed to a picture of the Madonna of Piedigrotta and vowed in the event of salvation to erect a church where he touched the coast.
We had a fish lunch in the towns main square, not our best food and quite expensive for what it was … but a nice setting.
We then made for the village of Zungri on the hills above Monte Poro. Zungri is famous for its Grotto Caves, Immigrants from Sicily moved here back on the 1300’s living in the caves, hiding from Muslim raids which lasted up till the 17th century.
We finished our day in the old town of Tropea, which stands austere and majestic, built on the top of the rocks overlooking the beach. The history of Tropea begins in Roman times, when along its coast, Sextus Pompey defeated Octavius. Inside the historic town with its maze of narrow streets are small artisan shops, selling local art-craft, hot salami and local produce. The town was preparing for a festival of music with fireworks, so we parked off the main Piazza Ercole and had a walk around just as the rain began to fall.
Sightseeing done we headed back to the boat, arriving under some very dark clouds and in time for a very wet and windy night.
Day 2 of our car hire: we decided to stay in Crotone, taking the opportunity to stock up the boat with water etc… The day was miserable, dark, wet with heavy rain (again) and very strong winds.
On Sunday morning, the local folk of Crotone come out to play … well, they parade along the promenade, it was very busy. Luckily it was a sunny day although windy (yet again), this is defiantly a feature of this area. Hudson and I joined the crowd on the promenade, stopping for a latte half way. I ordered what I thought was a coffee, however ‘latte’ in Italian is milk, so as he served me my glass of hot milk, my face dropped … I settled for a cappuccino.
The winds increased on Sunday night to over 40 knots, giving us a disturbed sleep, with all the fenders creaking and ropes squeaking. The wind was so strong, the dinghy blew off the front of the boat did a somersault before it hit the water and catapulted our oars to a watery grave (I wonder who hadn’t tied it down then … I’ll give you a clue, his name begins with an M). More shopping to be done, good job the shops are open on Monday as it is not a bank holiday here.
Monday was our last day and I have to say, it was a bit disappointing to find out that there was a washing machine in the marina office, after I had been hand washing for 5 days. I’m not sure we will be back to Crotone … not one of our most successful stopovers.
Tuesday at 6:00 am, no wind, no rain and calm seas, AT LAST we left the marina to travel to Roccella Ionica, 61 miles south west.
NOTE: As soon as we left the marina and got into the bay between the gas platforms, our calm sea deserted us and we were greeted with 3-4 metre rollers on our side …. we are definitely not coming back.… Read more