Last Sunday when the weather was still good, or finally coming right – depending on how and when you look at it, we went on a road trip with our boat neighbours from Takamaka. We made the 80km trip along the south coast of Sicily to check out Marina di Ragusa. It takes about 1.40hours to get there and on the way we saw the – unfortunately – common Sicilian sights: superbly bad drivers, insanely below average kept roundabouts and rubbish everywhere. Sometimes you would look out of the window and see Sicily coming to life with succulent greens, yellow, white, red and purple flowers and you are just about to exclaim your excitement over the beauty. And suddenly all the piles of rubbish come back into view.
Coming into the marina we walked along a beach promenade – it was wide and clean and relatively empty, probably because it was lunchtime and everyone was having lunch. The marina itself looked very spacious, clean and protected not only from the water but also from the little village Marina di Ragusa by a cliff-like wall. We were happy to see health and safety measures in place (life rings, fire hose), recycling stations, 2 toilet and shower blocks and beaches on either side of the marina. A fairly new walk and cycle way has been built along the coast with showers along the way.
It struck us that there was much less rubbish than in Licata and no(?) dog poo on the ground. We walked back past the marina along the promenade and all of a sudden it was packed and full of life – people had finished their lunch and came out to the beach to enjoy the sun, hang out in a restaurant/bar or have ice cream. The town centre was very inviting and open and very busy too. It was really quite charming. We found a little restaurant just off the centre and had a late lunch. The restaurant was packed when we arrived, by the time we got our pizzas/pastas, most of the locals had left and only the tourists (us) were still eating (plus a big Italian family who probably had been there since breakfast).
The marina itself looked quite nice and inviting. It has a fuel dock, a chandler and a shipyard onsite. What it doesn’t seem to have is a supermarket (which is a great plus in Licata) and it doesn’t look quite as sheltered from the wind. But, we haven’t stayed here yet, so we can’t really comment on these things – these are just our observation. We may be looking at staying a night here when we’re coming back from Greece. But, no plans yet, just options.
We arrived in the marina in Licata in October. It was hot and sunny and we spent our days working on the yacht (installing solar panels, cleaning the teak, fixing leaks etc) and the nights socialising with our fellow cruisers who were wintering in the marina.
But then winter came and it got cold, windy and wet and we were quite often trapped inside the boat because we didn’t leave the boat if it wasn’t really necessary.
So, when the weather turned bad after New Year’s and most of our jobs were done on the boat, we decided to head north and escape the Sicilian winter and instead spend a few weeks in England and Germany. I never thought I would actually say that.
We wanted to visit family in England and Germany – quite simple, really. But when you throw a dog into the equation things are not so straight forward.
We couldn’t take Tiny into the UK, so we had to fly from Catania to Hannover to drop Tiny off at my parents, then continue on to London the next day. Find flights back to Hannover and then head home o where our yacht is – with Tiny. Not many (affordable) airlines take dogs in the cabin. We found 2 airlines to choose from – Air Berlin and Eurowings – and chose the latter even though the fare was slightly higher, but our stop was in Stuttgart, rather than Vienna.
Tiny handled the flights quite well, after a time she relaxed in her bag and lay down. Every time we landed she started crying a bit but she does the same thing when driving in a car.
London / Chertsey
We hired a car in London but stayed the first night in Stansted as we arrived quite late. The next day we drove south around London on the M25 and past Windsor before heading on to Chertsey. We couldn’t believe how packed Windsor was and there was not a single parking space to find to go and actually have a look at Windsor Castle. I only managed two blurry pictures from the moving car. A bit further away we found a spot to pull in and I could play with the ducks and swans of the river Thames. In Chertsey, Alistair showed me around his old stomping grounds (twice) and we were done by lunchtime. Alistair couldn’t believe how small the town was – his house, his friends’ places, the school, downtown, train station – everything was within 1 minute driving distance. It was great to see the place and it brought back so many memories for Alistair.
As it was still quite early we decided to take the scenic route towards the west and go and see Stonehenge! Oooh, how excited was I?! Coming on the A303 you go right past it and I had my camera at the ready and I managed to snap some pics. Alistair then spoiled my fun when he said that the parking probably costs a few pounds but I wanted to check it out anyway. And would you believe it? The parking was free! Yay! So we got out of the car, got our camera gear etc and headed off to the entrance / visitor centre and then we saw it….. £18.50 per person. To go look at some rocks? From quite a distance (as it’s fenced off)? We think not! Little me was very disappointed and even the gift shop couldn’t really cheer me up. And I do love my gift shops! We wandered aimlessly about and then went back to the car to organise a hotel for the night. Bookings.com was becoming our new best friend!
The Fontmell / Fontmell Magna
We found a place for the night which also included a full English breakfast in the room fee. We were sold! From Stonehenge it took us about 1 hour to get from Stonehenge to The Fontmell. At some stage I thought we got lost; we had to turn off the main road and ended up on a very narrow dirt road, following a tractor. But that is just the English countryside for you. I loved the drive, loved the narrow roads, the fields, the villages, the old stone walls…
Fontmell Magna is no difference. We loved the place and especially The Fontmell, where we stayed the night. We usually give recommendations for marinas we come by and not hotels but I will make an exception. When we walked into the reception (which is also the pub), I felt instantly at home and when we went up to our room, we were really impressed. The room had just been refurbished (other rooms were in the process of being done up): it had a huge bed, great decor and our shower had two shower heads (I mean, whaaat?). Obviously, any place where you don't need to pump the water manually out of the shower is good for us. But this was pure luxury! We spent the evening in the pub and dining area - excellent food (and wine - but we stuck with local cider and gin tonic), personable friendly staff and great ambience. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend this place to anyone! 10/10 would go there again!
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! :)
One day we decided to go and explore… so, what else to do but to grab the dog and jump on a train. Just after an hour later we got off in beautiful Goslar – the sun was out and it was nice and warm. We started our walk from the train station and headed towards the inner city – we loved the crooked and cobblestoned streets, all the houses just oozed history. About 1000 years ago Goslar rose to fame and fortune due to ore mining in the Rammelsberg Mountain; the mine only closed as recently as 1988.
After a while we got hungry, unfortunately at that time I may have become already a wee bit hangry and I couldn’t decide where to eat and what to eat and on our search for the ‘right’ restaurant, we went halfway back the way we came. At least we knew our way around now :) Unlike when we tried to find the Imperial Palace (Kaiserpfalz). Although, I looked at Google Maps, I could not figure out which way we were going and ended up running past it. Being quite a big historic place I am not quite sure how we actually did miss it. It was built between 1040 and 1050 under Heinrich III it was home to several emperors and kings. It opens up to vast grounds with several statues just below the Rammelsberg. The building is the biggest and oldest secular building of the 11th century in Germany. Nowadays it is open for tours and exhibitions throughout the year.
At 3pm we gathered in the market place, with a couple of hundred others to witness the ‘Glockenspiel’.
Poor Tiny was not used to walk on cobblestone with her little feet so we ended up carrying her every now and then when it got too much – she was exhausted by the end of the day.
Since 1992, the mine in the Rammelsberg Mountain and the Old Town of Goslar have been entered on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List for all Mankind.
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.