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Published: July 10th 2019
June 10, 2019 Monday - Siracusa to Taormina - left June 15
We had decided it was time to leave Siracusa and head up the coast to Taormina (still on the east coast of Sicily) but even though we set the alarm for 5:30AM for a 6:30AM departure we always take one last look at a weather update (just in case). It still looked fine, but in fact if we were “real sailors” and not just travelers who sail we would probably wait until tomorrow as there is more wind, BUT we are also looking at the calendar and all the places we still want to get to and decided “let’s go today”.
Our main sail and anchor was up and we were heading out of the harbor at 6:23AM – a good start. Once out of the harbor it was as stated in the forecast very little to almost no wind at all. Oh well, we are promised some more later today and it is to be a 9-10 hour passage. It has been a nice clear day although early in the morning it was quite hazy and the visibility wasn’t as good, but still clear enough to
see far enough to keep a look out for fish pots and other boats.
The wind started to fill in and we were able to put up some more sail and cut down on the revs on the engine (yes, the engine was still on as we didn’t get that much wind!) but the day picked up in other ways. We had visits from numerous pods of dolphin!! No matter how many times we see them we still get excited (or as Bob says I really get excited like a little kid and he gets excited). The water is so clear here it is great as you can see the dolphin clearly under and next to the boat. They even roll on their side and look up at us as if to say “are you watching?” The first group of about 5-6 stayed with us quite a while before they got bored and took off. The next group of 3 came from quite a distance as we could see them off to the east of us, then turn and head right toward Tsamaya as if to say they wanted to play with us. By the end of the morning
we had visits from 5-6 different groups of dolphin. We always say that dolphin bring good luck and actually right after the first visit, the wind picked up and was at a great angle for sailing so maybe there is some truth to that! I just put up a short video of them in action so you can see their graceful motion due to the flat seas and very clear water on my YouTube channel (Janice Waller) as can’t post videos here.
Later in the morning, Bob went off duty and while I was checking for fish pots with the binoculars I happened to see what I thought was a short log, but all of a sudden a head popped out and I realized that it was a sea turtle – there were actually 2 traveling together but they were actually too quick for me as they were heading in the opposite direction so couldn’t get a photo of them.
By about 11:30 AM we were sailing past Mt. Etna , which makes quite a statement on the skyline even though it was not completely clear with clouds near the summit. Oh, it is now Bob’s turn to
spot a turtle so we both had sightings on this trip!
We are glad we didn’t wait for tomorrow as the day has turned out well – not too hot, a little bit of a breeze, a little bit of sailing and a shorter trip than we had planned. This is the way to have a passage. The bay we came to is very large and boats anchor at both ends, the one closer to Taormina which also has moorings or the one we decided on which was closer to Giardini Naxos. It looked like it was closer to town for provisioning so it won out. There were only a few boats anchored there leaving us plenty of room to get a good hook.
The next day we went to shore to get oriented to the area and find out more about what there was to see and about the public transportation options. Found out there is a hop off hop on bus that will take you to a couple of the hillside villages near here and it includes a stop at the site where some of the movie, “The Godfather” was filmed. The person telling us about
the offer gave some details of where to stop and have lunch and how to make the most of the 20 euro per person ticket. Our thoughts were to do this the next day, but at lunch we did some more research and decided that we would instead just take the day tomorrow and go to Taormina with the public bus and not bother with the other villages. The rest of the day we spent wandering around the town of Giardini Naxos. Looks like this will be a pleasant anchorage and will be able to spend a couple of days here without a problem as we look for the next weather window to make a 14 hour passage to the south side of the mainland of Italy.
The next morning we were up and ready to go to shore to catch the 9:05 AM bus to Taormina. Fortunately we had found a very nice place to take our dinghy to – there is a small marina that allowed us to tie up to one of their docks. The night before they even were kind enough to help us both into our dinghy and hand us our lines – very
thoughtful indeed with no charge. It is always a question when anchoring out as to where you can leave your dinghy. Sometimes you have to pull it up on a beach but that is never easy with the weight of our engine as it is a 4 stoke outboard. We had asked when we got to shore where we could leave the dinghy as some other cruisers had told us we could go to the quay but it wasn’t that easy to get out as it was quite high. Fortunately this marina was agreeable to us leaving ours at their place. We figured the next day we when we go for the full day to Taormina we will offer a few euro to keep our dinghy at their dock again - that is usually well worth the investment as then you know there is someone watching it while you are away.
The ride up to Taormina was pretty spectacular in itself as the bus wound its way up the very tight hairpin turns up the side of the cliff to the village. There were places where the bus had to go over to the other lane in order to
give itself enough space to make the turn. We were provided with some fabulous views of the bay below from the bus window. Sure glad we weren’t driving the bus and could enjoy the views.
Once at the bus terminal in Taormina you still had a little bit more of a climb to get into the village itself. It is definitely a tourist town as seen from the numerous souvenir shops (all selling pretty much the same things), but there were a few historical sites to see as well. The main attraction in that regard is the Greek Amphitheatre that is situated in a magnificent location overlooking the bay. It is the 2nd
largest of its kind in Sicily holding 5,000 spectactors with the one in Siracusa being larger. It was built in the 3rd
C. BC in the traditional horseshoe shape used by the Greeks. It was originally carved out of the surrounding rock, but with the extensive amount of brick research tells us that the Romans rebuilt it over the original foundations. The Greeks used it as a theatre, while during Roman times it was used for gladiator contests in the 2nd
C. AD. Even though we
Giardini Naxos Had Its Tourist Shops, Restaurants &
Hotels but fortunately it was still easy to get around
have been to other theatres, this one allowed us to enter the area where the stage was and the backstage area. It also provided us with a great view of the surrounding area. We could see the entire bay, the neighboring hilltop villages and Mt. Etna as well – quite the location indeed!
here were numerous other sights to see which included the city gates, a few churches and a couple o palaces thrown in as well. Taormina itself was first founded in the 4th
C. BC but as expected changes have taken place over the centuries, but much has stayed the same due to the fact of its physical limitations of the geography of its location. In fact the town was built on the plateau between the Greek/Roman theatre and Mount Tauro. It prospered with the production of wine, and later the export of marble and timber. Whenever we visit these hilltop sites, we are always amazed at what they accomplished in building in such out of the way locations.
There were plenty of people wandering the streets with us and Bob kept saying “and to think this isn’t the height of the tourist season”!
Figure we will just have to get used to the crowds as we move on into July and August in the Med from what we have heard. Hopefully we can avoid some of the worse of it by planning our stops well so they do not correspond with the charter boats.
We have been have been fortunate that our outboard motor on our dinghy (our family car) has been very dependable, but recently it has been giving us trouble. Bob cleaned the carburetor when we had been in Marzamemi and it was running better, but still not the best. It is starting much harder and when we came back from town yesterday it actually would cut out completely when we were at idle. It also took about 20 pulls to get it started which was definitely not the norm.
Our weather predictions were telling us that we would want to leave for the mainland of Italy the morning of June 13th
so that was the plan. The alarm went off at 3:45AM as we wanted to have the anchor up by 4:30 AM as we were preparing for a 14 hour passage and want to arrive in the
light. We started to get things ready (a pot of boiling water in the thermos, electronics on and engine warming up) but we also wanted to get one last weather forecast. We did that and it showed that things had changed and once we studied it closely we decided it was not the day to leave. Off went the engine and we climbed back into bed for a couple more hours. Flexibility is the name off the game when you are dependent on the weather for your travels.
This gave us an extra day – time to work on the outboard engine again. Bob had watched some YouTube videos when we were on shore yesterday and they gave him a few more ideas of things to check. Well, today was work on the outboard day but unfortunately we found no joy by the end of the day. We now can get the engine started a little easier, but every time we put it into idle, it loses fuel and dies. As a result not sure what to do next to get it fixed, but will have to figure out something as it is a critical piece of equipment for
us. Unfortunately we don’t have any carburetor cleaner on board and we have tried to find some in the last couple towns with no luck.
Today the big surprise was to see 2 cruise ships anchored off the bay here with its constant shuttle of people to shore – this definitely made the anchorage quite a bit more “rocking and rolling” than normal. Oh well, it definitely reminded us we were on a boat. Thank goodness neither of us have a tendency toward sea sickness as we sure have been rocking back and forth all day long. Any of you that enjoy taking cruises – if you have to be shuttle to shore in the lifeboats – next time you do, just give a thought to the boats that are anchored nearby! It sure did change the anchorage from a very pleasant, calm one, to one that was constantly being rolled around from the lifeboats shuttling back and forth all day.
In looking at the weather we now figure that Saturday will be the day to leave. After having been on the boat the whole day on Thursday Bob wanted to get off on Friday if for nothing
Plenty of Boats Here & A Couple of Days
we were surprised by a couple of cruise ships as well!
else but to get away from the rocking of the boat as guess what – 2 more cruise ships arrived and these were bigger than the ones yesterday meaning that there would be more trips back and forth with the lifeboats that they use to shuttle people to land. He also got thinking that he wanted to shop around for an additive for the gas tank in the dinghy as well as some fresh fuel – he wants to try everything possible to get the engine running better. At least he can get it running, it just doesn’t like to idle without shutting off. Went into town early in the day and we were glad we did as it was a very hot day and we found we had a long walk to the Esso station where people figured we could get the additive. The most direct route was on the main road along the waterfront, but with no shade we took the back roads that had some shade. It gave us a chance to check out a couple of the mini grocery stores and fruit stands. We have read that the town at the next stop is a distance
from the marina so would be better to pick up things that we need now. Mission was accomplished and by 12:30PM we decided to stop for lunch as we were all of a sudden realizing this would be our last time eating out in Sicily. Of course we had to have some Sicilian pizza, a mixed salad and then followed up with some wonderful gelato.
We have met a nice couple (and their lovely dog) on SV Second Life while anchored out. We talked to them today and let them know that we would be leaving early the next morning as they are anchored nearby. We told them we would try to be quiet so as to not wake them – sounds like they are headed over to the same place we are going on the mainland, so will look forward to catching up with them again. It is always enjoyable meeting up with other cruisers and sharing ideas and travel information.
This has been an enjoyable stop, but time to move on to the mainland of Italy next.
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