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.
Portland – Weymouth
We had a wonderful time in Portland, visiting Alistair’s family.
Thank you for letting us stay Auntie Ann!
Portland is just beautiful with terrific coastline and beaches as well as a new marina that was built for the Olympics in 2012. Getting to Portland we had to go through Weymouth – with yet another marina situated right in the city. We can’t escape the sea and the marinas, even if we are traveling by car and not by yacht!
We had lovely walks, scrumptious food and great fun visiting the family. I realised that I am not a great ‘people photographer’ and all the pictures I got of the family reunions was an artsy picture of Alistair’s Aunt and the dogs of one of his cousins…. But don’t worry guys, we remember you, it’s been a great time!
Oh my! Everybody said that Cornwall is beautiful – they weren’t wrong! We stayed at Tregenna Castle in St Ives for a few days and took this as our base for day trips around the countryside. Of course, I just got a very bad cold and I wasn’t really up to much. I remember our beautiful walks around St Ives, the colours, the little roads, the beach, the Cornish Pasties, the seagulls stealing the Cornish Pasties, the little shop, the full English breakfast that was included in the room price… Imust have put on a few kilos in our two weeks in England just because of the breakfasts
Over the next few days, we visited, Hayle, St Kevern, Camborne, Portreath and the Godrevy-Portreath Heritage Coast, Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. With me being sick and the weather being cold, it was mostly just a quick stop, a wee walk around, a couple of pictures and then back to the car. I hope I’ll get back here someday to give Cornwall the time it deserves!
Manchester / Darlington
Quick trip up to Manchester – 6.5 hour drive! – on our way up to Darlington. We met up with an old school friend and had Chinese for dinner! Chinese is no something that you come by that easily in Italy so we enjoyed it very much! We didn’t see anything of Manchester as we left the next morning. In Darlington we found a nice Hotel – The Blackwell Grange Hotel. We didn’t book breakfast with the room and instead wandered off to McDonalds for brunch before meeting up with Alistair’s Mum. We visited The Bowes Museum about 40km away from Darlington. It was a lovely day – inside the museum, as it was again very cold. Clouds started rolling in too, and our walk around the park was cancelled the following day so we stayed inside and nostalgically looked through old and new photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to spend with Alistair’s Mum, it was lovely meeting her.
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!
Christmas is over – now New Year’s is over too….
Again, we had a great time with our fellow cruisers.
On New Year’s Eve, we all met in the Yacht Club in the marina for some eggnog and a screening of Dinner for One. This comedy sketch from 1963 is an all-time classic and a favourite in Germany, Denmark, Finland and Norway and is watched traditionally every year on 31.12 – New Year’s Eve. I am glad we were able to bring this gem of NYE tradition to everyone else in the world – Americans, English, Scottish, Dutch, Italians,… Can’t remember, who else was there.
Afterwards, the group split up and some went out to a restaurant in town (We were told that it may not be too safe in downtown Licata around midnight because people are allowed to fire their guns – in the air only - but still this was a bit too dodgy for us). And we went back home to our neighbours on the Cat Takamaka for a deliciously scrumptious Raclette meal – special thanks goes out to Deimante and Saulius from Takamaka for hosting this event and Stefan and Jessica from SY Sundowner for bringing their Raclette grill from Germany. We had so much food, it wasn’t funny! After pan fulls of melted cheese, potatoes, bread, meats etc, the party started. Who knew you could have so much fun with glow sticks and party lights as a grown-up! So, we ate and drank and danced and just before midnight, we headed to the BBQ area where we met up with the others again to set off our expired flares. We heard that everyone seemed to have a few expired ones on board, and what better opportunity to learn how they work on, than on New Year’s Eve. A few days before we checked with the marina if it was ok for us to set them off and they agreed and also checked in with Coast Guard to make sure that there wouldn’t be any issues – all legal! Most of the flares worked alright – but, man, they are scary as! They are loud, they are bright, they are hot – which is a great plus if you are in trouble, but not so much when just doing them for ‘fun’.
When that was over we headed back to Takamaka (a Lagoon 440) and suddenly our little group grew from 6 in the beginning to 10 (or more?) after midnight – song and dance continued until the early morning hours.
And even though it was a long night, most of us still managed to head over to the BBQ on time for Sunday lunch – sailors are the real troopers!
Happy New Year to everyone out there – Have fun, live free, go on adventures, be happy!
Love from the STN crew
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.