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Impressions of the Sicilian South Coast

Current Location: Porto Palo, Sicily
Current Position: 36 40.18 N 015 6.9 E Click to view map.
Distance sailed since last post: 122 nautical miles. View the map of our voyage track here

We have just left Marina di Ragusa on a bright sunny Saturday morning. The sea is calm, and there is a nice 10kt sea breeze on our starboard quarter as we glide along at 5 knots with the spinnaker up. Doesn’t get much better than this!

We have been fortunate with the winds. Since we left Minorca we have had to do very little motoring; and the few times we have, have been a blessing as we were cruising close to dramatic cliffs where one really wouldn’t want any significant wind or wave action. We were told that the Mediterranean is ‘either too much wind or too little’. Certainly we have had a few windy days, but by watching the weather closely we have been able to position ourselves on the right sides of the coast. That did mean a couple of lively sails past Bonifacio, but nothing dramatic. The one exception to that was the stop in Callaseta where the wind changed from onshore force 5 to offshore force 5 rising to 7 at 2am. The wind change had been forecast, but we thought it would arrive a bit later in the day than that!

We have also been fortunate in finding plenty of places to anchor. Many times this has meant just lying off the beach, which is fine in settled and offshore weather. We have been surprised, however, at how few other boats are around. We had been warned that the cruising grounds would be ‘packed’ during high season. Well where are they all? And the same sentiment has been echoed to us by other cruisers we have met. I guess the current economic woes, and the Italian boat tax, have cut down the traffic. Corsica was by no means busy, and Sardinia and Sicily have been practically empty. And all the marinas we have passed looked pretty empty too.

Sicily is nice. We have had great weather. The people seem to be friendly. The towns are pleasant. Prices are reasonable – how about 3.50 euros for a large beer (66ml) in a bar? Scenery is not spectacular like Corsica and NW Mallorca, but is certainly very pleasant – mostly low lying or flat ground with lots of beaches and some pretty coves. And, of course, the ancient history is dramatic.

The south coast is less commonly cruised than the north. The north has the off-lying islands, like Stromboli and Uscati, plus tourist destinations like Erice and Cefalu, all of which we plan to see on our way back. Most of the villages are small fishing towns, plus some industrial larger towns. The sea isn’t crystal clear like it was in Sardinia and Corsica, but it is clean enough. And sometimes we get some phosphorescent plankton to brighten up our toilet flushing!

In Porto Empedocle we met Tony and Sarah aboard Ron Glas, and old Junk rigged schooner from Inverness. They had also been in Cartagena when we were there, and were friends with Tony and Sarah of Ione, our neighbours in Cartagena. It is fun how you meet up with people as you sail. Since they don’t have a freezer we had them over for drinks (with ice cubes) and served them some ice cream as a treat! Fun people. Sarah is an artist and paints on board (she did an exhibition in Cartagena) and also a hairdresser, and Tony is a leather worker and general fixer upper. They bought the boat in dilapidated condition, fixed her up over two years, and took off. That was eight years ago. Just goes to show you can go cruising without a huge kitty.

The night before last we anchored outside Licata. Licata has a HUGE harbor, with an outer section and two inner sections. All of them are almost empty. The eastern inner section used to allow free anchoring, but they have just opended a new marina at the end of it and so the don’t allow any anchoring. In fact, as we entered the outer harbor a dinghy rushed out to meet us. I guess they wanted to welcome us to the marina – and to tell us we couldn’t anchor. The cost for us was to be 50 euros for the night, so we said “no thanks”. There is still HEAPS of room for anchoring, but I guess they don’t want those people to come ashore and spend money in their bars and restaurants. The marina itself was, of course, almost empty. Behind the marina is a large shopping mall, so that is nice and easy access for big shopping. They are trying to compete with Ragusa for the over-winter people, but with Ragusa already offering good deals, and being much closer to an airport, I think they are up against tough competition.

Last night we were in Marina di Ragusa, which is a small seaside town, 23km from the actual town of Ragusa which is where all the UNESCO heritage buildings are. The marina is new and looks very pleasant. Cost for us to winter there is only 1500 euros for 6 months. Cheaper than what we paid in Cartagena. Lots of the cruisers we met are planning to winter there, so I am sure it would be a pleasant place to say. We may well come back here.

That being the case, we didn’t actually stay to visit the town, especially since the buses to Ragusa itself don’t run on weekends.

So now we are pleasantly gliding along at 5 kts with the spinnaker up, headed east. Will probably stay in Porto Palo for the night, and then round the corner to Syracuse tomorrow.



One Response to “Impressions of the Sicilian South Coast”

  • Heidi Swanson:

    Good idea to winter in Sicily. We have always wanted to go there. Perhaps we can visit your there next year. Who knows? Monday, 13th August, is our 59th wedding anniversary!!

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