We left Marina di Cala del Sole on Sunday 23.4.17 at 4 am, after checking the weather for a week and waiting for the right weather window to head to Greece. We thought Sunday looked good and so did 4 other boats. We opted for an early 4am start as did SY Sundowner – it would take us about 12 hours to get to Porto Palo at the south east end of Sicily; arriving at 4pm we would still have enough daylight to find a good anchor spot, if the first didn’t suit. The other boats left a little later – all heading east towards Porto Palo / Syracuse.
Were we still able to sail after 7 months in a marina? We didn’t have doubts but we didn’t think we would go without any hiccups at all. We didn’t think, though, that the hiccups would start before we even left the marina!
Our second deck line got stuck and we couldn’t pull it in. Since the guys from Sundowner were up too, I shouted over to them but they had their Passarella up and couldn’t jump over to the pontoon anymore…. Next thing, Alistair climbed onto our neighbours catamaran, ran across the 8m boat to the other side, lowered their Passarella, ran onto the pontoon, freed our line, ran back, lifted the Passarella and jumped back onto our boat. First crisis sorted!
I let the mooring lines go, with all the commotion going on before I was a bit slow and by the time we were free we had drifted slightly into our neighbouring boat and the handle of one of our bikes got caught in the netting around the lifelines – we managed to free ourselves but lost the grip of the handle.
Making our way out of the marina was alright – it didn’t help that it was pitch black and the port lights were not working.
Out on the sea, we struggled with the AIS which was cutting in and out all the time and while Alistair was checking downstairs what was going on… the engine stalled! Panic! Engine turned on again and all was normal – I had accidentally turned the engine off with my knee!
We were rewarded with a beautiful red moon and a superb sunrise and watched the smoke of Mt Etna glow in the red sky. Wind was blowing enough from behind to set the headsail for some downwind sailing.
All went smoothly, until we lost the jib sheets! The headsail was fluttering uncontrollably in the wind while Alistair tried to reattach the sheets – imagine the power that a 120sqm sail exerts! We managed to furl the sail half way in – it took Alistair 3 attempts to attach the jib sheets again! Finally we were on our merry way!
Until I got seasick. I wasn’t so merry then. But it only lasted from 7 to 11, then I got better and I could enjoy the ride.
The wind picked up and we were sailing at about 6-7 knots, sometimes doing more than 8 knots. Coming up to Porto Palo, the winds were gusting over 25knots, going north to our chosen anchor spot, the wind was on the beam. When trying to reef the sail / take it down we actually managed to heave to – quite an interesting experience but that didn’t help us at this moment; engine on and managed to turn into the wind and get the sail down. The anchor spot was not very sheltered and after checking the wind/weather we decided to get something to eat and then sail straight through to Greece making the most of the wind behind us.
We set the sails and tried to sail wing-on-wing for a while. We never tried this before and we had a few jibes along the way and decided to take the main down and just sail with the headsail again. We didn’t want any trouble in the dark.
From then on we had quite uneventful sailing, some motoring when the wind died down, some motor sailing, we saw dolphins in the distance, caught two squid (they somehow managed to jump on board), had a couple of birds sailing with us for a while, caught no fish, managed night watches, got really cold at night, changed the courtesy flags when we crossed to Greek waters....
We expected to arrive in Lakka on Wednesday morning but on Tuesday we made up so much time that our eta had changed to Tuesday 10pm local time. This meant going into an unknown anchorage in darkness. Our friends from SY Sundowner already arrived at 4pm and said they would help us in and Stefan was waiting for us in his dinghy to guide us to our anchor spot. We arrived safe and sound, tired, exhausted and cold in Lakka on Paxos. When we woke up the next day we were able to see the beauty of this place….
I am writing this after our 7 month stay in the marina.
We looked for a winter berth only end of September 2016, most marinas we contacted in Greece and Sicily had already been booked out. We contacted the Marina di Cala del Sole and fortunately, they had space for us. The winter rate was very reasonable 1990 Euro for 6 months with 1 month free if belonging to one of a few cruising associations. Looking at the website, we were quite stoked about availability, price and services.
The homepage talked about 1500 berths, sports fields, 2 villa resorts, private beach, spa, maxi yacht mall in the marina, shopping centre. Quickly, we realised that the website did not match what we saw. The marina has not been finished yet: there is room for about 400 berths, only one villa resort has been build (3-4 villas available for rent), no private beach and most shops within the maxi yacht mall are empty. There are also cranes and construction vehicles around the area that look like they have been just left (website has been updated since then and now mentions that 394 berths are available at this stage and planned 1500).
Despite the discrepancies between website and real life we had a very good first impression. The office staff is fluent in English (and French) and the marineros are very helpful. It was sunny and warm when we arrived so everything looked quite inviting and my first shower block inspection returned positive results plus it wasn’t very far for us to walk there.
Maxi yacht mall: The Café Letterraio in the marina became our second home with delicious paninis, croissants and salads and good and cheap wine (at happy hour times 2 Euro) and plates of complimentary snacks. The only other shop in the marina is the chandler. He has been great, most things we needed he had in stock, or if not he was able to order within a few days (we are still waiting on a Lewmar winch service kit which we ordered in December – it is now April). Andrea has been really helpful, organising the sailmaker (we got new UV strips on both, main and headsail), the canvas maker (we got a new bimini) and he also tried to teach us some Italian along the way. Wait, there is another shop – a bag shop… never been there, though, and never seen anyone. The gelateria was closed from October until April, as was the little snack bar/pizzeria. Hoping they will open for cruisers in summer. There is a self-service laundromat – 4 washing machines and a dryer. Most of the time only 2 machines were working and everyone would queue up when the weather was good. The machines are commercial machines which can handle loads up to 8kg and 16kg and cost 6 and 9 Euro. The dryer we used once as it was just a waste of time (and money – 3.50Euro for 15min) as the clothes wouldn’t really dry even after 2 cycles – and why spend money when you can hang your washing on your yacht – after all laundry day should be a sunny day. Overall, the machines are very dirty as the fishermen use them to wash their fishing nets etc and they are too expensive (often the water does not heat up and clothes don’t get washed properly). Since wrting this, the prices for the machines have been raised by 1 Euro each - they are still not serviced or cleaned, though. Some cruisers resorted to renting an apartment for 25 Euros/night and do a bulk load of washing there.
Shower/Toilet blocks – there are 2 blocks on either side of the marina with 4 toilets and 2 showers. Looking at them quickly, they all look fine, but a few issues arose during our stay. Toilets would run frequently out of toilet paper and/or paper towels a couple of seats are broken and you need to be careful not to slide off. One sink drain was leaking so the solution was to turn the water off, the shower heads were calcified that hardly any water came out and the drains were blocked causing a major flooding every time you took a shower. The men’s shower rarely had hot water at all during winter. It took a few complaints and emails but it seems like these issues have now been resolved, new faucets and shower heads have been installed and the water is usually warm to hot.
Safety / Security – the marina is very well sheltered with double breakwater walls. We had a few days of very strong winds during winter and all the boats got a wee bit bumped around but overall we were quite sheltered. The boats at the ends of the pontoons had it probably a bit worse. There were a couple of incidents during a period of sustained 30 knots of wind – the lazy lines broke off and caused 4-5 boats to come loose and blow alongside the pontoon. This caused a bit of damage to those boats. Once this was discovered the marineros arranged to dive into the marina and re-secure the lines. On a different occasion, the floating pontoons (nearly) broke off from the quay. It took a couple of complaints to the office to get some ropes and chains tied to the pontoon as a temporary fix – both floating pontoons have been now fixed. ‘Security’ gates and fences around the pontoon consist of about hip high ropes and bushes; gates are usually not locked as cruisers go in and out to go to the bathrooms/recycling/chandler etc, but this invites non cruisers to walk up and down the pontoons. I personally feel like being in a zoo…
Shopping facilities – As mentioned there is nothing in the marina other than the (very good) chandler and the bag shop. Right outside the marina there is a shopping centre it has a good supermarket (Conad, reasonably priced), an electronics store, ATM, lunch bar, clothes shop, optometrist and others. Licata is quite small and any store is within walking distance – pharmacies, diy stores, a second chandler, fruit shops, wine shops, the Guardia Medica for medical emergencies, dentists, music intruments, post office etc. A store that has become quite important to most cruisers here is Lidl – and if someone is going there, car share is in order because it is about 30min walk. Every Thursday there is a market in town (about 20 minute walk) with fresh produce and olives which you can all taste before buying.
Marina staff – very friendly and helpful. The office staff can help with appointments for doctors and dentists, organise flower deliveries, look up timetables for buses, arrange drop off and pick up at/from the bus station, make reservations etc. The marineros usually don’t speak English very well but they are always happy to help, be it driving you from the café to your boat on their electric golf carts, carrying 100+ l of diesel to your boat, rescuing a bird from a locked (and empty) shop, helping with berthing etc. What we and other cruisers unfortunately witnessed was that when you did complain about things (no hot water in the showers, wifi not working), nothing would happen for a long time and you would just get excuses and the same old answer ‘domani’. When the wifi was down ‘domani’ meant three and a half months – a situation that many cruisers where angry about.
On the other hand the marina organises regularly events for the liveaboard community – BBQs, Christmas Tombola, Valentine’s theme party,… and they are always great fun with shiploads of food and wine!
A problem every boat will encounter here is a significant growth on the hull. Our antifouling is new so we didn’t have a big problem (it did take about an hour to dive and scrape through-hulls, propeller, bow thruster), but 90% of the boats need to be hauled out to get new antifouling. Although we had all new anodes in August as well as hanging a sacrificial anode off the back – our anodes (especially on the keel) are gone and need to be replaced as soon as we are out of this marina.
A few things happened during our stay that were not the marina’s fault (lightning struck the wifi repeater), but the way this was handled was very disappointing. Breaking lazy lines, blocked or leaking drains, pontoon boards coming undone… could have been taken care of before these things happened if some maintenance took place.
Overall we had a good time here in Licata, we met a lot of cruisers and some friends for life. Having a supermarket at the door step was great we were mostly sheltered from wind and waves. I would not come back for a winter season due to all the issues we encountered but I would recommend the marina for some days during the summer.
On Sunday 9th April, our French and Swiss cruising friends organised a rubbish collection event. All cruisers walked up the breakwater and collected all the rubbish along the way. Honestly, all the rubbish might be a little exaggerated but we did manage to fill up 80+ rubbish bags along with a pile of glass and treated wood (plywood, crates..) within 1.5 hours. It felt good giving back and doing something good. It is a little disappointing that it takes the cruisers/tourists to clean up the marina and the Licata community did not get involved. We wish that the people of Licata see the pictures that are posted on the marina website and hopefully get inspired and educated. From 10.30 until 12pm we were busy collecting rubbish - we found styrofoam boxes (from the fishermen), plastic bottles, ropes, plastic bags, tyres, brooms , crates, nets... What a difference 40+people can do in an hour and a half! We had then 30min to freshen up because the marina organised a farewell BBQ for all the liveaboards who where here during winter (and everyone who has come back). Like the previous BBQ, there was just too much food for our bellies to handle: Pizza, Salad, Focaccia, Lasagne, Sausages, Meat, Strawberries, Sweets. It was great. The weather was not so great but after a couple of minutes of light rain it was alright again. Shout out to all marina staff (Emi and Maria even played Moelkki with us) and thank you to everyone there.
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