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.
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.