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….
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.
Marina di Punta Ala
100 Euro/night for a 14.49m boat, mid September
Since we couldn’t get an electrician on Elba, we decided to head back to the mainland and find a marina that could help us out and organise an electrician for our Raymarine chartplotter, VHF and autopilot.
I called the marina in Punta Ala to book us in for the following night (Friday) and asked if they could organise someone to check/fix our electrical problems. So they gave me the number of the ship yard. Fine, I thought, and called the ship yard in the marina. Unfortunately, there was only one guy in the office and he did not speak any English… I managed to understand that I should call the marina again and have them call him (which was my initial intention, to be honest). Fine, I thought, and called the marina to ask them to call the shipyard to check if an electrician was available for tomorrow. I then got a call back from the marina (yay!), they gave me 2 numbers for 2 electricians I could call to check their availability. Fine, I thought, and called the first number and asked if he spoke English… Yes! I asked if he would be available the next day… Yes! We were very happy that worked out and looked forward to getting to the marina in Punta Ala to get our problems sorted.
We got in about lunchtime the next day, in strong winds gusting up to 28knots. Upon arrival we were ordered to the fuel jetty. Not sure, if they couldn’t find our reservation in time or if there was confusion with the boat behind us who came in to the fuel jetty too. After we confirmed we did not need any fuel, they gave us our berth: pontoon 3, berth 18. So off we went. And went. On neither side was a berth no.18. Just before we reached the end of the pontoon we turned around and headed back toward the entrance.
Mooring assistance arrived finally in a dinghy to show us our berth – no. 14 (as 18 was already taken by another yacht). Fine, we thought, and reversed into our newly assigned spot. Winds didn’t make this too easy and the guy in the dinghy tried to help but kept pushing us too far over that we needed about 3-4 attempts to finally get it right.
Once tied up, we realised that the berth was too narrow for our boat and we kept moving over und pushing into our neighbours, who weren’t too happy about that, but there was nothing we could do.
First impression: not perfect
We went to the office to check in, the gentleman there was friendly enough with good enough English for us to understand him. Discovered then that the wifi is not freely available but you need to sign in with an Italian phone number… so that didn’t help us either.
The marina as such looks quite nice and berths up to 880 boats. There are shops, chandlers, a little grocery store and restaurants along the promenade and a self service laundry.
That sounds ok so far, unfortunately, there are only 2 washing machines (one of which was out of order – this happened after we put our 4.00 Euro in it) and the other one didn’t have a spin cycle. The dryer then, of course, is not able to dry the clothes, even after 2 cycles. We resorted to hanging a washing line inside of Tiny Nical (it was raining) and turned our yacht into a dryer ourselves.
The grocery store does not help if you needed to stock up your boat for your next longer trip. There are hardly any groceries available and fruit and veges have also seen better days. At first I thought, this was because we went there on a Sunday afternoon and they did not receive any fresh deliveries. But on a Wednesday morning the sight was the same. We just got some (overpriced, like everything) packed bread and some of the world’s most yuckiest croissants (not the shop’s fault, really, but I still associate them with the shop).
If you need to stock up, there is a supermarket in Punta Ala, but not in the marina itself. Unfortunatley, we did not have the time (40 min walking distance) to wander up there.
Toilet and shower facilities are ok, they even have hairdryers available.
The weather forecast is interactive and you can check on different parameters at different times, this is updated through the weather website (I couldn’t see which one) probably hourly, so you can plan your trips easily.
Coming back to our electrical issues. When we arrived in the marina I gave the electrician a call and within 30 min he arrived at our yacht. We went through our problems and we made some progress – the VHF aerial and lead we bought on Elba were wrong, the card reader in our chartplotter had a defect and could not read any cards and hence could not to a firmware update and the clutch of the autopilot was burned out (also there was a dodgy bypass made by the previous owner to still be able to use the autopilot). Adriano, our electrician, who not only speaks English but also a little German, said he would get us a new aerial, lead and take the clutch away to rewind the coils. Being Friday afternoon, he would try to get this all organised by Monday. So we had to stay 3 nights…
Monday morning Adriano came back with the aerial and lead but the work on the clutch was still in progress and it would only be ready by Wednesday. He also brought his electric winch along and in no time, Alistair was winched up the mast to change the lead and swap the aerial. (It took me about 30min to winch him up when we were still in the boat yard!). Aerial fixed but VHF radio had a defect and could not receive.
We left Punta Ala for two days and returned on Wednesday afternoon. Adriano, followed us on Marine Traffic and knew we were back and collected the clutch for us. After a lot of hair pulling and swearing, him and Alistair managed to put the autopilot motor back together again, and hooray, it is working! We are so pleased!
Last thing he did for us was contacting a friend of his in Riva di Traiano, who is not only a Raymarine service person, but THE Raymarine service person in Italy. He said he could fix our VHF, no problem.
To cut a long story short, we were underwhelmed by the marina in Punta Ala and would not recommend it. It is ridiculously overpriced for what it’s worth.
But if you are ever in need of an electrician, we can definitely recommend Adriano! Please do contact us, if you are in the area of Punta Ala and need assistance, and we can get you in touch with him!
94 Euro / night for 14.49m sailing yacht, mid September 2016
Pretty little marina situated right at the old city with berths along the promenade with shops restaurants and bars.
During the day quite busy but at night the roads get closed. With all the bars and restaurants along the promenade there is still quite some foot traffic passing by the boats until late at night.
Berthing assistance was great, they picked us up from the marina entrance and showed us our berth. Great help with throwing/tying our lines. Every berth has access to water and shore power.
Office staff had very good English and helped with organising an electrician to come onboard to check on our VHF, Chartplotter and Autopilot. Unfortunately, the electrician was not on the island for this week. Free wifi and information pack are provided upon check in.
There is a chandler on the other side of Darsena Medicea – about a 15-20minute walk away. If you don’t need something too special, they will be able to sort you out. We on the other hand wanted a new VHF whip and a lead – and we got the wrong ones (which we didn’t know at the time). The light bulbs worked a treat though.
About a 4 minute walk away is a laundromat and a wee convenience store, who luckily did Campingaz bottle swaps (behind the deli counter of course). A supermarket is as well in walking distance. There are toilet and shower facilities, which we haven’t found (but we weren’t looking for them either).
If you send more than 1 day here or don’t have to fix things on your yacht, you can also (amongst other things) visit the Museo Archeologico, which displays archeological finds from shipwrecks from around the area or wander along the Medici Fortresses from the 16th Century.
There is a big anchorage just before you turn into the marina – the area is fairly sheltered from the wind but every 30min a ferry leaves or arrives at port and you get the wake from those.
We really enjoyed the marina and the winter rates were very reasonable with 200 Euro/ per month with a minimum stay of 3 months. Since we liked the marina, we tried to book us in for winter but unfortunately for us, they were already booked out for the winter months.
If you do come and stay here, try to find the specialty of the island - take away fruit salad! :)
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.