Monday, 23 June 2014

Exploring Vibo and Pizzo - Our last stop on mainlaind Italy


August 11-13 , 2013

 
Yet another memorable Mediterranean sunset over Pizzo's Castello Murat
 After the previous days rubbish weather, we were so happy for a resumption of the brilliant, summer conditions we had grown accustomed to when we stepped off the boat to do a bit of exploring.  

The marina manager strongly recommended that we check out the Medieval town of Pizzo, situated high on the headland overlooking Vibo Marina. She even called a taxi for us. We were a little surprised when the ‘taxi’ proved to be a three wheeled contraption with handlebars instead of a steering wheel. Oh well, when in Pizzo do as the Pizzonians do.


Joy, Trevor and Karen in our Taxi. Rob got the scary front seat after taking the pic.
 
The gorgeous Italian southern coastline at Pizzo
Our first stop was the little Church of Piedigrotta The church dates back to the seventeenth century and is a cave dug out of a soft rock in a bank facing right out to sea. It was originally created in gratitude by shipwrecked sailors who'd been saved from a storm. The interior is ornamented with statues carved enthusiastically from the rock by a local family in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There is a small charge to enter and it is a little hard to decide whether the groto is a devoutly kitsch curiosity or a just a tourist trap. Still, it is definitely worth seeing if you are in Pizzo.


The beachfront church of Piedgrotta was established by fishermen in 1700
With scores of statues carved out of the soft rock, Piedgrotta is certainly different
The centre of Pizzo is a picturesque network of narrow lanes, historic but bustling with everyday Calabrian life. The heart of the town is the Piazza della Repubblica, where we enjoyed a gelato at one of the two dozen or more gelatarias that line the square. Close to the piazza is a very picturesque castle, known as the Castello Murat. It was built in the fifteenth century but is most celebrated for being the place where Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, was executed. The castle is open to the public, and features a number of excellent historic displays. Below. in the shadow of the castle, is Pizzo's small harbour, with a very pleasant seaside promenade.


Castello Murat in Pizzo was well worth a visit.

 
Looking up to Castello Murat and the Piazza della Repubblica at Pizzo
After wandering the streets we settled in at one of the open air cafes in the Piazza for a bite to eat. We have found that rather than studiously trying to decipher the menu, simply asking the waiter for a recommendation often produces far better results.  This place proved to be a prime example with the suggested Piatto di pesce (seafood plate) being amongst the best  9 Euro ($12) we’d ever spent. Complete with a mackerel steak, baby octopus, two squid, a whole fish and huge prawns, accompanied by fresh crusty bread it was a VERY filling feast and a great way to see out our day’s exploration. The fine local vino bianco (white wine) certainly contributed to the merriment.


That's a very big plate and one very generous portion of seafood.
The next morning was spent reprovisioning the boat for the next leg of our adventures. This was the last day that Karen’s parents, Trevor and Joy, would be with us, however we had great friends Tony and Lyn arriving from England that afternoon to spend some time with us on Alcheringa.

We discovered all the necessaries such as a well stocked supermarket close by the marina and loaded up on fresh fruit and vegies at a small street market. None of the vendors could speak any English and while we’ve grown reasonably adept at making our needs understood via hand signals and the VERY limited Italian vocabulary we have acquired during our three months or so in the country, Karen’s father, Trevor, hadn’t really caught on at all. On seeing a vegetable plant he was not familiar with, Trevor points to it and asks ‘What’s that called mate?’ generating a reply of ‘Quanti?’ (How many) as the trader on the other side of the bench naturally assumes we wanted to buy some.  ‘Karen what’s this quanti? Have you tried it before? Do you want any?’, Trev asks. Karen replies ‘No Dad. It’s not called quanti. He’s asking how much of it you want.’ Prompting Trevor to turn back to the vendor and ask again, ‘What is it?’. The increasingly confused Italian comes back with, ‘Mi scusi’ (Excuse me). Trevor follows up, this time asking slowly ‘ What vegetable is this?’ which only generates an even more confused look on the poor local’s face.  Trevor is not one to give up easily. Undeterred, he tries again speaking very, very slowly, ‘What   -  is  -  this  -  called?’. Rob couldn’t hold back any longer chiming in with ‘Trev, if he spoke to you very slowly in Italian would you understand him? No? Then why the hell do you think he’ll understand you, no matter how slow you speak?’ We said our ‘Scusati’ (sorry) and payed the poor bloke a few meagre Euros for our purchases and moved on before Trev tried just one more time.

Rob walked up to the station to meet Tony and Lyn after lunch and sat and waited, and waited, and waited. A text message from Tony informed him they were sitting in the stationary electric train, about fifteen kilometres away. They had been stopped for a grass fire along the tracks ahead. It was out now but they were waiting someone to turn the power back on. Another case of TII (This IS Italy)

They eventually arrived a meagre three hours late, dehydrated and starving. After dropping their bags on the boat and making the relevant introductions, we quickly decided a return to our seafood mecca we’d discovered at Pizzo’s piazza would provide a ready cure to both problems and away we went. This time the six of us were spread across two of the wondrous three wheeled chariots which proved to be the only form of Taxi available in the area. It was a fantastic afternoon/evening which continued on later than it probably should have when we returned to Alcheringa but what the hell.


We watched paragliders soring over Castello Muratand  another awesome
sunset on our return visit for more of Pizzo's incredible seafood.
 
After crossing from Menorca to Corsica and northern Sardinia in mid May we reached the Italian
mainland at Livorno neat Pisa then sailed north as far as La Spezia before turning south all the way
to Vibo, our final stop on the mainland before heading west to the Aeolian Islands and Sicily.

AN APOLOGY

Since returning to Australia at the end of last European summer’s wanderings around the Med, we have been extremely busy, catching up with friends and family, finishing and publishing our first book, ‘Stuff it. Let’s go sailing anyway’, mounting a very successful exhibition of Karen’s artwork and buying a new boat to sail the western Pacific and South East Asia.  We’re now working at finalising the story of our adventures in the Med in this blog and getting it all back to current so keep checking back for new instalments.


To stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.
 

 

 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Don’t turn your back on the weather gods. They bite!

August 11-13 , 2013  



Another magic day sailing the Southern Italian Coast

 As much as we loved our time relaxing around Isla di Dino we dragged ourselves out of our bunks, raised anchor and continued on our way south. Down this next section of the Italian coast there are  no protected anchorages and very few harbours. We were heading for a marina at Cetraro which was listed in the pilot guide as being the last refuge for a boat of our size before our final destination on the Italian mainland at Vibo Valentia some fifty odd nautical miles further south.

It was another beautiful, sun filled day as we rounded the island and pointed our bow directly into a slight headwind. We were burning diesel instead of sailing yet again but at least it was very relaxing cruising along taking in the views of beachfront towns, hilltop villages and massive road bridges spanning the numerous ravines.

The wind strengthened a little mid morning but stayed right on the nose. We looked with serious envy at the lone yacht we passed headed north which was ghosting along nicely under spinnaker alone.

By the time we reached Cetraro around lunch time the breeze had disappeared completely. As we neared the harbour we began debating whether to go into the marina or simply anchor in the calm water outside the breakwater. As neither the appearance of the town from offshore or the brief description contained in the pilot guide proved very attractive and in light of the very benign conditions, we eventually elected to continue on southwards for a few more hours to save the expense of the marina fees and reduce the distance we would need to cover the next day. The forecast was showing that the windless weather we’d been experiencing for the past week or more was set to continue so anchoring off a beach somewhere should be no problem.

We ate a relaxed lunch on deck in the sunshine as we chugged along hugging the shoreline to get the best views of the towns dotted along the way. In the late afternoon we found ourselves off the town of Paolo which was fringed with attractive white sand beaches. This looked as good as anywhere to spend the night along this long, straight coastline so we tucked in close and dropped anchor.


August 9 Isla Di Dino to Sao Paolo – 36.7 Nautical Miles – 7 Hours 20 Minutes 
Average Speed 5.0 – Max 5.5 Knots
Where we anchored off the beach at Paolo.
We all enjoyed another swim and were settling in for sundowners when a small Gardia Costiera (Coast Guard) boat approached. We were concerned they may think we were anchored too close to the beach as the regulations in Italy seem to vary greatly from place to place. One of the young officers on board had some basic English skills and was very pleasant and courteous. After a perfunctory check of our ships papers, Rob’s ICC (skipper’s certificate) and passport he wished us a Buona Sera (Good evening) and they were on their way much to our relief. By this stage of the summer, we had seriously over stayed our Schengen Zone visas. To be honest the Italians never ever raised the issue with us and other cruisers had told us they don’t really care as long as you’re spending money in their country and don’t get into any trouble but we were always a little nervy dealing with any arm of the law. We didn't really fancy having 'DEPORTED' stamped on our passports.

We were still working on catching up on the sleep we lost at Isla di Dino and all turned in early for a nice, peaceful night . At least it was peaceful until we were woken by the sound of thunder just before midnight. Rob went on deck and was greeted by the sight of lightening out to sea stretching both north and south as far as the eye could see. A quick check of the radar showed three separate lines of thunder storms heading our way. So much for the fine weather forecast. We laid out an extra 15 metres of anchor chain giving us a total of 40 metres down in just over six metres of water and waited.

Within 15 minutes the sleepy shore and calm water we’d anchored in were transformed into a raging surf beach as 20-30 knot gusts drove in from the sea. Heavy rain stung any exposed skin and made visibility extremely limited. The quite sizable waves were breaking just 10 metres or so from our stern and the strong wind had the boat trying to sail at anchor, continually stretching out on her chain from side to side. For the next four hours we stayed in the cockpit being bounced around and pelted with stinging rain keeping a close watch on the distance between us and the now dangerous beach. There was nothing Joy and Trevor could do to help so they kept out of the way by staying in their bunk but suffered an extremely rough night in their forward cabin. Rob was by the wheel the whole time with the engine running, ready to power away from the maelstrom behind us the moment we felt the anchor lose its grip. If we were pushed back into the breakers the sand churned up off the bottom could quickly clog the filters on our motor’s water intake with an inevitable outcome of the engine failing and Alcheringa being washed aground and pounded by waves. Certainly not the way we wanted to end our Mediterranean cruising. 

By about 4.30am the lines of storms had passed although the swells continued to pound the beach and the wind was still reasonably strong. Thankfully the additional chain we’d put out did its job and the anchor held firm despite the wind and sea’s best efforts. As soon as the eastern sky began to lighten in the predawn, we upped anchor to head for the safety of open water. We had no intention of waiting for sunrise and set course for the security of the marina at Vibo Valentia almost 40 nautical miles away. We could feel the tension flow out of our bodies as the autopilot went on and we finally swallowed down the mugs of very welcome hot coffee we'd longed for all night. After the excitement of the early morning, it was a fairly miserable eight and a half hour slog south into a fifteen knot headwind and sloppy seas under sodden overcast skies. Not fun.

In incredible contrast to what we’d experienced the rest of the day, as we approached our destination the sky cleared, the wind dropped out and the seas abated providing a fantastic welcome into the harbour at Vibo Valentia.  The staff guided us to our well sheltered berth, we found the marina is managed by a very friendly Canadian woman who was extremely helpful and we discovered it has very nice facilities including laundry and even its own cafĂ©/bar. We were in no doubt we were going to enjoy our few days in Vibo Valentia and the storm dramas were all but forgotten. Life is still good on Alcheringa.





San Paolo to Vibo Valentia – 39.0 Nautical Miles – 8 Hours 33 Minutes 
Average Speed 4.6 Knots – Max 6.7 Knots



It was very nice to be in the security of a good marina after our fun at Paolo

Vibo Valentia on the toe of Italy

AN APOLOGY

Since returning to Australia at the end of last European summer’s wanderings around the Med, we have been extremely busy, catching up with friends and family, finishing and publishing our first book, ‘Stuff it. Let’s go sailing anyway’, mounting a very successful exhibition of Karen’s artwork and buying a new boat to sail the western Pacific and South East Asia.  We’re now working at finalising the story of our adventures in the Med in this blog and getting it all back to current so keep checking back for new instalments.


To stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.
 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Isla di Dino – An unexpected gem in Southern Italy

August 7-8, 2013
 


Alcheringa anchored off Isla di Dino in Southern Italy
Looking at the charts when planning our hops south down the Italian coast, we had spotted a small island that looked like it might be an interesting spot. The ‘Italian Waters Cruising Guide’ didn’t have a lot to say about Isla di Dino but did report that local fishing boats often used it as an anchorage ‘in settled weather.’ We envisaged a rocky, deserted island laying off the coast and could see ourselves resting nicely at anchor for a night with just a small fishing boat or two for company.


Another windless day as we leave Scario on the Italian south coast.
We got away from Scario fairly early and set our course motoring across the Gulf of Policastro in windless conditions. It was only about 20 nautical miles to Isla di Dino but we needed to leave ourselves time to continue on to a marina at Cetraro if the island proved to be an unsuitable anchorage. The passage across the bay was uneventful and would have been quite boring if not for the presence of Jesus Christ the Redeemer looking down upon us.


Christ the Redeemer overlooks Maratea and us as we sail south.
Known as Cristo Redentore di Maratea in Italian, this statue was made in white and blue-grey marble sourced from the famous quarry area near the city of Carrara in Northern Italy.  Unlike other statues, built by donations from the public, Cristo Redentore was erected using the funds of a single individual.  Stefano Rivetti was a Piedmontese entrepreneur who wanted to pay tribute both to his religion and the people of his town, Maratea.  The statue stands atop of the Monte San Biagio, the hill which overlooks the town. It is the second largest in the world and the only one in Europe. Standing 72 feet high and 62 feet in width it can be seen for miles on its mountain perch. Also located nearby is the basilica of Saint Blaise (San Biagio) which dates to the 7th century.


The basilica can just be seen at the extreme left


What a view. (Photo sourced from the web)
After marvelling at the size of the statue, we arrived at Isla di Dino in time for lunch. We didn’t exactly find the deserted island we had envisaged but rather a thriving tourist area with thousands of people lazing in the compulsory recliners stretching as far as the eye could see along the mainland beaches and hundreds of small boats anchored just offshore.
As usual, Karen and her mum, Joy, wasted no time getting in the water.
 


Trevor checking out the cliffs of Isla di Dino
Unlike the gently sloping beaches of the shoreline, wherever the island meets the sea is all vertical rockfaces other than a small stone wharf on one end that leads to a steep road to a solitary building on the top.  Although it wasn’t the quiet secluded spot we’d hoped for, it was far too beautiful  to go past so we decided to drop anchor on the island’s southern side about 100 metres off the beach.


Scario to Isla Di Dino – 19.4 Nautical Miles – 4 Hours 03 Minutes
Average Speed 4.8 Knots - Max 5.8 Knots.
 
 
We anchored close to the beach and enjoyed the scenery and people watching
 
You are always surrounded by history in Europe
 
Next came a very relaxing afternoon, swimming and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters before settling back in the cockpit with a cool drink for some serious people watching as humanity did its holiday mode thing all around us. All very peaceful really, until 11.00pm when a beachside disco fired up with blaring music which patrons attempted to scream over to communicate. As it ran right through to 5.00am, sleep was at a premium. Karen’s father, Trevor, was particularly unimpressed that when the music finally went silent and he thought a couple of hours of slumber may finally be possible, about twenty of the drunken revellers decided it was time for a very long and loud swim and set up camp on the beach directly behind our boat. It took great restraint on his part not to initiate a major international crisis of diplomacy there and then.

Considering the sleep deprived, grumpy state of the crew and wanting to avoid a possible mutiny by early afternoon, Captain Rob, decided to abandon the day’s planned passage south and we simply moved around to the northern side of the island and re-anchored to put some distance between Alcheringa and boom box alley.


Our first night's anchorage is at left before moving around the island next day.
It was another glorious day with clear blue skies, warm sunshine and glassy seas. Perfect conditions for sitting at anchor by a picturesque island. We’d noticed some sea caves dotted amongst the cliff faces and after a quick bit of research on Google discovered we may have stumbled on some unexpected gems. The inflatable was dropped into the water and off we went for some mid-morning exploring.


Seeing a tourist boat exploring the caves sparked our interest.
The first cave we encountered was near a rocky outcrop on which stands abandoned small, mushroom-shaped buildings which appeared to have been an ill-conceived resort. Here is the ‘cave lion’ so named for a rock surrounded by water in the form of a crouching lion. We were able to go far into the cave in our dingy and marvelled as the water colour changed through incredible shades of blue. With the engine off, we drifted gently in the eerie silence marvelling at this wonder of nature while trying to ignore that thousands of tons of limestone was overhead thankfully defying gravity at least for now.


Taking the dingy deep inside the caves was a stunning experience


Unquestionably the bluest water we've ever encountered
Moving further around the island we came to the entrance to the ‘Blue Grotto’ which is unquestionably the most beautiful of the caves. It is very reminiscent of the similarly named cave on Isla Capri, but it is different as the water colour ranges from green to blue green copper and contrast with the intense blues at the inner edges of the cave.

Continuing about fifty meters on we came to the "Cave of the falls" so called precisely for the continuous noise of the water dripping from the limestone ceiling. We could easily imagine these drops becoming streams after rain.  Around the western tip of the island, is the entrance to the ‘Cave of the pediment,’ but we gave it a wide berth as there were scuba divers exploring the sub-surface. After passing a small shrine to the Madonna wedged precariously in the sheer rock face, we explored a couple more lesser caves before heading ashore for some refreshing gelati from one of the beach venders.
Not quite as big as Maratea's statue


You'd be amazed at what you see pass by in Italy.
This was followed by another very lazy afternoon aboard with our day capped off by another amazing sunset providing a stunning backdrop for our suitably named G&T ‘Sundowners followed by some fine local vino and another of Karen’s excellent Italian meals. Even when tired, life is good on Alcheringa.

 
 

AN APOLOGY
Since returning to Australia at the end of last European summer’s wanderings around the Med, we have been extremely busy, catching up with friends and family, finishing and publishing our first book, ‘Stuff it. Let’s go sailing anyway’, mounting a very successful exhibition of Karen’s artwork and buying a new boat to sail the western Pacific and South East Asia.  We’re now working at finalising the story of our adventures in the Med in this blog and getting it all back to current so keep checking back for new instalments.
 
To stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.