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.
For the last couple of weeks we have seen cruisers come back to the marina, who left their boats here in Licata and spend the winter months at home or touring around different countries. They are all back getting the yachts ready for sailing season, lots of boats have been hauled out at the nearby ship yard to get new antifouling and anodes. During winter there has been a lot of growth on the boats - some look like they won't be able to make it to shipyard by themselves. There is a river nearby that flows into the sea next to the marina and there is also a fish farm about 500m away - there are a lot of nutrients in the water to speed up this growth. Jessica and Stefan from SY Sundowner just took her out for a spin in the marina and found that their prop was not working and they had no reverse. They are hauling Sundowner out next week to get her cleaned and antifouled. We are lucky - we do have a bit of growth on the hull but our antifouling has been freshly done in August last year. A dive and a good scrape should get us going again.
31st of March officially marked the start of the sailing season with our first liveaboard cruiser friend heading off to Ragusa, bunny hopping his way to Greece, where we hopefully catch up with him again. Eric is sailing single handed and has come all the way from the Netherlands. I think he is one of the happiest people I know, nothing ever seems to stop him smiling. It was a bit sad to see the first of us leave - we are a tight knit community, especially if you have been living together for the last 6 months. But it was also very exciting, knowing that we will follow suit as soon as possible.
The rest of us are busy working on the boats to get them ready, and/or waiting on the last spare parts to arrive via post. We are done, apart from waiting for the mail and scrubbing/cleaning the boat. We can't wait.
This was the first year that we have been apart from our friends and family on Christmas. Even though we missed having our children/parents around it was also nice to not worry about a thing. No decorations, no baking, no Christmas lunch or dinner to prepare… Just a quiet night.
The cruisers (thank you Harriet and Gustaf) arranged for a little Christmas party on 15.12.16. Everybody brought some finger food along and a secret Santa present. This freaked me out a bit, because I didn’t know what to get (max limit was 5 Euro) AND I had no wrapping paper!! The most popular present was the olive pipper, which got stolen 5-6 times. I, myself, stole a Citronella candle from the French (I want to be prepared for summer), whereas Alistair stole a weird game from Rebekah – which we may play on New Year’s, I guess the drunker, the funner J
The marina organised a Christmas / Charity event on 23.12.16. We played the Italian version of Bingo. Rules were quite confusing at first bit after 5 minutes of constant asking and repeating we got the hang of it. The charity tombola was in aid of the Asante Sana Children’s Home in Mambrui, Kenya and even I got a bit frustrated at times because none of my numbers seemed to be called, it was good fun. Later the marina offered heaps of food and some bubbles to celebrate. Obviously, I ate too much!
The BBQ on Sunday 25th was a bit larger than our normal BBQs (there were Christmas biscuits and cakes and bubbles and nearly half a beast on the barbie, Eric brought his deep fryer along) it was ‘just’ a barbie. Great fun with the few remaining liveaboards here in Licata – no stress, just food and drink and the compulsory Moelkki game afterwards.
Now, the next task is to get us all together for New Year’s Eve….
(Some photos are not mine, but either by the marina or one of our cruiser family, Miriam – more photos on fb page Marina Di Cala Del Sole
Today is the shortest day of the year, which means, we are heading back into summer - it's time to sum up our winter experience in Sicily so far.
When we arrived in the marina in October, we asked Maria what winters would be like. She said it is normally not very cold – minimum of 9 degrees, but it will get very windy. And boy, she wasn’t wrong!
It already started end November with some of the biggest thunderstorms I have ever encountered. In New Zealand we had the occasional 1-2 hour long thunderstorm with 100s of lightnings. I even recall one night in Hannover (the night we left on a school trip) that went on and on with thunder and lightning. But compared to what we had here in Licata, that was nothing. We had 4-5 nights in a row of constant thunderstorms – it would go on for hours. No chance of sleeping with the constant flashes of light and the long, deep rumbles of thunder. When we heard the biggest bang, that made us sit upright in bed, one of the yachts in our marina got struck by lightning, seemingly melting all the electronics on board. 4-5 other yachts had been affected as well: the Swedish boat Sans Peur lost their autopilot (we know how important that is!), the English Grand D’Artangan had troubles with their batteries, etc. Luckily we had no problems – I think what saved us was the fact that we had already lost power a few hours beforehand (due to water in the electric system – not so lucky) and were not connected to the shore power when the yacht (about 6 boats down from us) got hit. Right next to the Hanse 575 that got hit is an Irish boat, Windhover, whose owners already had some bad luck in September, when they, too, got hit by lightning, when anchoring in Lipari (next to a huge tanker)! Sean and Bernie are back in Ireland for winter so Alistair and I checked out Windhover for them and gave it the all clear. Imagine if they had got struck again!!! They, too, were not connected to the shore power.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the whole of the marina lost power for a couple of days and it seems the wifi aerial repeater things were affected too, so there was no wifi since end of November. For cruisers it is quite a nuisance as we need wifi to communicate with our families overseas, arrange flights for visits home, or even work! After 4 weeks I looks like the wifi is back, but now we have Force 9 winds, gusting over 50 knots, which will more than likely kill power and wifi again.
Obviously, with the thunderstorm there comes rain. And we did have our fair share of rain – one night it rained 160mm in 3 hours (http://floodlist.com/europe/italy-floods-licata-sicily-160-mm-rain-3-hours), and the town of Licata was flooded; roads turned into rivers and the parking lot, where my parents parked just days before turned into a swimming pool! (Last 4 fotos of the flooding from http://www.meteoweb.eu - I tried to avoid going out)
Rain and thunderstorms have eased for now, but we still struggle with the gales – especially being on a mono hull doesn’t help with the overall well being… You guys probably know what I mean :)
Stay safe, take care and keep warm - your STN Crew
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.