Saturday, October 4, 2014

ALMA'S LOG: CALABRIA (till Scilla)

With the sunrise comes a nice day and after a coffee I went to see what I could do to repair that diesel line. I took it apart and found out that with a little care it was possible to cut the damaged part and still have enough to make the connection. Only one problem, the piece that goes around the tube and presses it against the metal part (preventing it from coming out) was not a reusable one and that was a high pressure tube (up to 10 At). I used some wire to get some grip on it but that is not the same thing as a proper piece to do the job. I switch on the engine and it worked, no diesel coming out. I tried it till 2000rpm and it hold, but of course with that rotation I was afraid the tube would come out later and decided not to make more than 1800rpm. There’s a Portuguese saying “Devagar se vai ao longe” (slowly you go far away) and I am sticking with it. The downside is that on an engine that can do 3600rpm, at 1800 you only got 4.5K.

Anyway that does not seem a problem, there are about 7K wind and we are making over 6K. With the engine working even with limitations I don’t see the need to go to Crotone. I can sail and use the engne to anchor and charge batteries. I can buy the piece to press the tube in Soverato and have it fixed. Doing 6K I will arrive at Soverato late in the night so, as we are tired (no autopilot) I decided to go to the nearest know anchorage, cape Rizzuto( I had anchored there before). The wind seems right and the pilot book says that we can anchor on both sides of the cape, depending on the wind.

 We are making 6K and over so we will be able to arrive there before sundown.

But unfortunately it seems that luck wants nothing with us. The wind does not last and it goes completely away… one of those September days with a nice sky with some clouds and no wind at all. I can sail with very light winds but without any wind I have to turn the engine on and at 4.5K, sometimes less, we are going to arrive well in the night.

And it was a very dark night. I can see the little town, the small beach but the place where I have stayed on anchor before is completely dark (I think it is a natural reserve) and there are some rocks and shoals to pass before getting there. The pilot book is of no help (it says that the bottom is not always good, with sand, rocks and weed, referring both sides of the cape!!!) and does not provide any clue or drawing showing the right place to anchor so I approach slowly the beach near the small town near the cape (East side) but not much because there are depths of 3.0 and 2.0 meters and there is some sea and waves. I anchor in front of the beach, at what I thought was a safe distance from the cape, in what regards a rock bottom.

We cast the anchor at 6/7m deep, the anchor did not set the first time but on the second try we had a good grip. We let out 40m of chain, as usual I pulled with the engine backward and the boat stayed put. Finally a good night sleep! There are some waves, the boat rocks sideways, the wind is weak and will change direction through the night. It is safe enough and all those "details" are not going to prevent a restful night, with the usual regular lookouts to see if all is okay. I do that without Isabel’s help and it has become an habit, I am used to it and can sleep through the night almost without being disturbed by the regular anchor watch. You know when you get back to bed you think “nice, all is well and I have 3 more hours of sleep” and that feels real nice :-)

I slept well and woke up at 8 a.m. felling the boat moving rather harshly. I had a look, the wind was blowing with some intensity from the sea and we had no protection at all. Some waves started to form and the boat bounced uncomfortably. I said to Isabel: “We are going out of here. We will have breakfast while sailing downwind, it will be more comfortable”. Isabel goes to the anchor, I move the boat against the wind to make it easier but again the luck is not with us. “The chain is stuck” says Isabel. I ask:

“How many meters in the water?” “30 she says. That’s bad, lots of chain out. For half an hour I try to move the boat around trying to clear the chain, I let out the full 50m, pushed from all directions: no way. I put my flippers and diving mask and went in the water. All that sea agitation makes for a rather turbid water and I cannot sea the bottom. I dive, following the chain and the bottom has not rocks but huge boulders and the chain is all wrapped against one. I went up and instructed Isabel to move the boat according to my indications. I dive to see what is happening and after 20 minutes of going around the boulder it is finally free. I pulled myself up to the boat, just to hear bad news: Isabel says that it is still stuck, now at only 15 meters of chain. And on the water I went again and this time it is worse. The chain has find its way on a crevice between two boulders and to take it out moving the boat soon revealed impossible.
I asked Isabel to give me more chain and to maintain the boat over that place and dived many times taking bit by bit that chain at hand out of that crevice. Thanks God that in my youth at the place we spend the summer (Baleal) the trend 40 years ago was not surfing, as it is now, but underwater spearing. I am old now but all that practice in apnea diving come very useful here ;-)

This time I stayed in the water till I saw the bloody anchor hanging free from the bottom!!!

To say that I was tired and cold was an understatement but most of all I was hungry, very hungry, so hungry that instead of putting the boat sailing (with a perfectly good wind) I put Isabel at the wheel and went inside and ate a bit of everything I found in the refrigerator…even a beer :-)

We where already a bit late for having the assurance to be able to make the more than 60Kms to Soverato by day time but this time we where lucky with the wind, not strong but enough to sail between 6 and 7.5K almost all the way. We arrived at sundown and cast anchor on the place where we use too (being there other times). Soverato is a nice town with everything that is needed to supply a sailboat, at nice prices too. I found the pieces I needed to fix conveniently those fuel tubes, got mobile internet for the weather reports and some provisions.

Just a word about the Italian Pilot book signed by Rod Heikell: It is a disaster.

It will do if you want to stay only at marinas, plenty of them, most of the time at very high prices, but in what regards anchorages (that is what matters to me) is useless. Sometimes (very rarely) it say that here and there is the possibility to anchor, always in settled weather, but never a picture to show the place and where to anchor, not a bottom description, nothing. Perfectly good places (with the right wind) like Soverato are not even mentioned (as many others).
This Pilot Book is quite opposed to the ones Heikell has for Greece and even the way it is written is quite different, as if the book was written by one of those Italian Yachters that always stay at the marina and look with contempt to the ones that prefer to enjoy nature…and maybe it was because that is not the image I have of Rod Heikell.

From Soverato we sailed to Santa Catarina del Ionio and stayed on anchor. Nice place, sand bottom and good shelter with the right wind. From there we sailed to Palizzi Marina (a beach and a small fishing village). We should have made just some 6 or seven more miles to Giovanni (to the west). I had already stayed on both places, both with sand bottom but on Giovanni, just near a small fishing harbour we can stay closer to land (on 3/4meters of water) and get a better protection while on Santa Catarina near the shore there is rock, or it has shoals. Anyway a quiet night with the shore offering just enough protection.

And some luck finally!!!

We caught a fish. I rarely fish but this time I went for it and caught a nice fish. Never saw one like it. My brother that likes fishing says that it is a species that also lives in Azores and that can become really big. Mine had only about 1kg and it was delicious!!!

And best of all, the autopilot started to work again! I had already tried to “repair” the autopilot (on the day it went out of service), that for me means to clean all connections and spray contact cleaner on the circuits but nothing happened. Of course, Isabel believes in miracles and keep asking me to try again the autopilot to see if “it works already”. I should have tried it at her request, on the last days, at least 10 times…and at the 11th, it started to work as if nothing had happened.

After all these problems with Simrad instruments I have to say that I would avoid them in the future. The “new” used tridata instrument that I had mounted on Crete works perfectly, for 5 or 6 hours and then the screen goes blank. Happily all data shows on the plotter so it is not a big problem but the plotter is sloooow. It is a 2007 instrument and it’s way slower than the 2002 Raymarine plotter of similar size that I had on my previous boat.

From Palizzi we sailed to Scilla, passing the Messina strait. Scilla is a very nice place with a sandy beach. You can anchor off the beach in front of some restaurants. The bottom is sand and it offers good protection with the right winds and that is most of the time in the summer (I have been there other times). Otherwise it is possible to take a buoy on the other side of town. Scilla , ancient Scyllaeum was a famous place on ancient times: Homer talks about the monster of Scilla, that lived on the promontory huge rocks and threw stones at the passing ships. It is also described by Strabo (the first real Geographer) as “as a projecting rocky headland, jutting out boldly into the sea, and united to the mainland by a narrow neck or isthmus, so as to form two small but well sheltered bays, one on each side”, a much better information than the one that is given by the Italian Pilot book more than 20 centuries later. Not long after that the place served as a permanent naval base against pirates and it is probable there that the actual settlement has its origins.

A word about the Italian winds: A mess that makes many times the weather reports grossly inaccurate. I guess it has to do with being a narrow country with seas all around and mountains in the middle. Anyway it is normal to have winds changing direction frequently and not always week winds. Many times in the summer the wind blows from the sea during the day and at night from land, rotating slowly all the time. That would not make for anchorages that can be used to stay for some days or even 24 hours (out of settled weather) but it certainly can provide good anchorages for the night that is what most of us (sailors) want. After all, the day is for sailing  ;-)


  1. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. alma laser repair

    1. Hi,

      Thanks you are welcome.

      I have decided, already two years ago, to separate the blog, that is about new boats and interesting sailing stuff, from my personal sailing and cruising journal.

      I passed that for my facebook page. Not in English but you can use the translator that is pretty good. I believe I have nice photos there and if you sail the med and like not crowded anchorages you may find some interesting suggestions. Just scroll down or look by years.