Date: 31st April – 2nd May
Price: 59Euro/night + VAT
Water: drinking water – charged / non potable water – free
Wifi: charged (30Euro/month)
Amenities: Chandler, Dive shop, Supermarket, Laundry, Restaurants, Bars, Port Police, Swimming Pool, Toilets/Showers, Ship Yard, Fuel Dock
Laundry: 10Euro/load, 12Euro/wash&dry
On 31st April we headed up to Gouvia Marina, Corfu to check ourselves in with the port authority and get our DEKPA (Transit Log).
We planned to leave between 9 and 10 am after we took Tiny to shore to do her business. While we were getting ready Tiny decided that the boat was good enough for a pee and we could get the outboard off the dinghy and then hoist the dinghy up earlier than anticipated and left Lakka at 9am.
We tried to sail for a while but once we got in between Corfu and the mainland there was not much wind left and we had to motor for a few hours. A couple of hours before we arrived we called the marina if they had room for a couple of days (by the time we arrived the Port Police would be shut) and then advised them of our arrival via VHF once we came down the channel to the entrance and were escorted to our berth by a marinero. We tucked in between a charter boat and a custom made steel motor sailer inspired by American fishing trawlers.
Gouvia Marina is completely different to what we experienced the last 7 months in Licata. It is big, it is busy, it is noisy. Mind you, during winter there were about 5 liveaboards and all the shops in the marina were shut. Now, especially the charter boats were hustling and bustling to get ready for the season. Gouvia is the base for the Sailing Holidays charter company, who have 140 well maintained yachts here, a big group of young and friendly staff and a Kiwi owner who stumbled upon us (our NZ flag). We became best friends for a couple of days and got some insight into the charter business and some good tips and laughs along the way. Maybe, once we’ve done sailing ourselves we’ll give him a call and work for him. In Greece. There’s worse.
The marina had lots of restaurants and bars, shops, a swimming pool, showers and toilets that kept getting cleaned, a laundry service with clean washing machines and even a dive shop to get our dive tank filled again. Lots of tavernas just outside the marina were great and cheaper – we are recommending the mixed grill platter (when you are very hungry).
Saturday we wanted to see the Port Authority only to be told that we would need to see the Tax Office in Corfu Town first but they are closed on weekends and Monday was a public holiday (1st of May) so we spontaneously decided to find a Vodafone store to get a data sim card for Greece – the closest one was 6.3km away. So off we went. It took us over 5 hours to get there and back and a sim card. Oh my poor legs! Oh my poor legs for a couple of days!
After 4 nights and obtaining our official Greek paperwork we decided it was time to leave – had spent enough time in a marina and were looking forward to some beautiful Ionian bays!
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.
We had a lovely stay in the Aeolian Islands we arranged for our winter berth in the south of Sicily. With the wind and weather pattern for the upcoming days we decided to take the long way around Sicily and go west, rather than going through the Strait of Messina. A few hours before sunset we arrived in the marina of Cefalu. At first we didn’t want to go into the marina and tried anchoring just inside the breakwater but then decided to go further in. A big catamaran came in behind us but went straight to the pontoon where there were 2 marineros waving them in. We were ignored. We finally were seen and guided to the berth next to the Cat. We tied up and went to check in; on our way to the office (which is just a container) we were joking about the fees. We expected about 30 Euro for the night and got a shock when we were asked to pay 70 Euro! Let me tell you about the facilities in the marina: a vending machine next to the office! We had a shower and made some dinner. We planned on leaving early the next morning and had an early night. There wasn’t much wind but the swell was massive and all the boats along the floating pontoon were bashing about back and forth, left and right. We crashed into the pontoon twice and decided at 10pm that this marina will not work for us, so we untied ourselves and anchored just outside the marina. We got up at 3am and left towards Palermo. 70 Euro well spent – NOT! Any ideas what we could have spent the money on instead?
65 Euro / night, for 14.49m boat, end September.
We called the marina about 10min before we arrived and asked if they had a berth for the night. No problem at all, and a dinghy came out and greeted us when we got to the entrance, checked out our size and guided us to our berth for the night, where he jumped out of his boat and helped us with the lines.
Again, wind was not quite in our favour, but with the second attempt we were safely in our berth and with the mooring assistance quickly secured. Top marks.
It feels smaller, or more personal, due to the layout of the marina/pontoons than Punta Ala.
The office is right at the transient berths pontoon, so we didn’t have to walk far and the office staff spoke a little English (it’s always a blessing if they speak a little English because our Italian is even less than a little – random words, yes, whole sentences, no)
After checking in we went for a walk and found plenty of restaurants, bars and boat related stores (chandler, canvass/sail repair, engine service, ropes, home store (for live aboards).
Although, there are many dogs around, I thought the marina was not very dog friendly as all grass and flower beds are fenced off. Luckily, at the entrance there is a bit of lawn that Tiny gladly used.
The chandler has a great selection of useful items. The first two things we needed were adaptors for the power and the water…. Still can’t get my head around it why there is not one standard connection for these things?!
Next time we passed the chandler, we got 50m of anchor chain, which we then had to cart to our yacht and then somehow get onto her too – that was the afternoon gone.
We didn’t feel like cooking after fighting with the chain for hours in about 30 degrees, so we went to a little take away pizza place. It didn’t look like much and all he had to offer was Pizza Margherita and focaccia. We got both, of course!
If you ever do come to Riva di Traiano, make sure to get some of the porchetta filled focaccia! It was amazing and it even had crackling! It was the best thing we had to eat for a very long time (or so it felt at least). Still dreaming about it sometimes. One thing we weren’t aware of when we ordered that the advertised price was per kg – that meant we had dinner for two days.
The marina has a wee grocery store but we didn’t bother to go there and headed straight to the Coop supermarket – about 25min away, there we stocked up with fresh fruit and veges and some meat for the freezer.
You will also find a self-service laundry (we didn’t use it), where you need to advise (and pay) the adjacent shop before using the machines.
Toilet / shower facilities are all along the marina – no matter where you are, you only have short distances. Some of the facilities were better kept than others.
Riva di Traiano was not only on our way as we headed south along the coast of Italy, but our electrician, Adriano, recommended the Raymarine service shop to check on our VHF and chartplotter. When we got to talk to the owner, Massimo, he said he had discussed the VHF issue with Adriano (Marina di Punta Ala) and he would be happy to have a look at it. We then mentioned the chartplotter as well and dropped both into his shop in the afternoon. No problem, he said, it should be ready in the morning. And sure as, when we came back in the morning, both VHF and chartplotter were ready and working! We were stoked. If you are in the area and need help with your Raymarine gadgets – we’ll gladly pass on his details!
I apologise that we didn't take more pictures of this marina - we have been too busy.
I will try to add a few more pictures from the videos later.
After our last minute change of plans we found ourselves a marina in the south of Sicily to spend the winter months. Since this is our first season, we really didn’t know what to expect. But already while mooring we met a couple of our neighbours who helped us with the lines. We settled in for a few days and then heard from one of the other Liveaboards that there is a Happy Hour every Tuesday and Friday at the local bar and every Sunday the cruisers organise a BBQ. Once we attended our first Happy Hour we were fully integrated and met heaps of people of all nationalities. Here in the Marina di Cala del Sole we have people from England, Scotland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Switzerland, USA, New Zealand, Lithuania, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Malta, Denmark, Ireland, Brazil – and it’s always great fun getting together, eating, drinking, singing, and playing games.
We love dinner parties – it’s amazing to see how other Liveaboards use the space they have to create beautiful 3 course dinners. Also, we learned that there are electrical wine coolers. This is a thought worth while!
Every two weeks we have a Skippers Meeting, to share experiences, ask questions, get help etc . It’s a great little community here and if someone needs assistance or has any questions, there is sure to be at least 1 person able to help.
Also, the marina is great and all the staff is really helpful. One day we ordered Diesel – usually there should be a tanker delivering the Diesel, but it is seemingly on strike, so what happened? The Diesel was delivered to our yacht by one of the Marineros in 25L jerry cans from the local petrol station.
For our 8 months wedding anniversary (yay) the office organised some roses to be delivered to us.
We are calling Marina Di Cala Del Sole our home for just over a month now, and I must say, we are quite happy with the marina itself (although it’s not quite as advertised – more about the marina later) and with the people we have met so far. What might have helped us settling in and feeling quite at home is the fact that we have had great weather with temperatures as high as 27 degrees (remember, it is October) and a very sheltered berth.
Now, with it being mid November, the temperatures have dropped to 18-20 degrees and there is a lot of wind and rain about – time to get the socks and jackets out! We have also tested our heating a couple of times – it works a treat and it gets nice and cosy in a few minutes. Unfortunately, the first cool and rainy week was when my parents were out to see us. I hope they got a slight glimpse of what it is like living on a sailing yacht – I think they managed quite well.
Everything else is kind of like living in a ‘real’ house – you have to cook, clean, wash the dishes, do the laundry, fight with the wifi, take out the rubbish...
We are looking forward to our next few months here before we head out again to explore the world at sea.
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.