Cruising the West Coast of Italy, Website Update, Share the Sail, Name the New Boat Contest
Hope you are all having a good summer!
After a really nice spring cruise, Paul and I are back in the studio for the summer editing the new episodes of Distant Shores which we filmed as we sailed along the west coast of Italy (news on that follows). However, we have just spent the last few days doing a major rebuild to the www.distantshores.ca website so we invite you to go through it to check out the “new stuff” and perhaps find material you had missed before!
Update to the Web Site
Some of the new features are More Pix and Movies, Share the Sail, RRS feeds, drop-down menus, and a better archiving system for easy reference to the information you want to know. Click on “More Pix and Movies” and try the “Distant Shores” button. There is a whole episode of Distant Shores available for download in Quicktime iPod format for you to preview. It's quite high quality and should look great! It is a large file though (140MB) so you need a fast connection. We intend to put up more video samples and previews when we see how this goes. Please send us your comments.
Another new thing we're trying on the website is using RSS feeds. If you are saying, “What the heck is RSS?” then maybe you needn't bother looking, but as Wikipedia says, “RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that's easier than checking them manually.” You add the RSS feed to your browser and see immediately when there is a new newsletter, podcast or blog entry. Of course you can still subscribe to our newsletter in the normal way and we will send you an update notice by e-mail.
Our New Boat Now Under Construction
Needless to say, we are both very excited about our new boat, a Southerly 42RST – and all the planning and thoughts going into it! Paul has been updating Paul's New Boat Blog regularly with issues of design, systems and specs. Now that the hull is actually in construction at Northshore Yachts in England, Paul will be posting photos showing its progress on the blog. Anyone thinking they might someday buy a new boat may be interested in the challenges and excitement of buying new!
Cruise Along the West Coast of Italy
In the [June 2007 newsletter] we covered sailing with friends in the Caribbean aboard a Diesel Duck yacht troller and a Lagoon 380 catamaran, and Easter celebrations in Malta where we had stored Two-Step for the winter. In this month's newsletter we set sail from Malta and take you to the Tyrrenian Sea, the region of the Mediterrean along the southwest coast of Italy, which is an undiscovered cruising ground with breath-taking scenery, quiet coastal towns, remote mountain villages, and fascinating historical sites such as the excavated city of Pompeii, frozen in time when buried in the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This was to be our last cruise aboard Two-Step, the Classic 37 sailboat that Paul and I built as a wedding present to each other and that has given us great joy as together we have sailed her to many wonderful places since her launch in 1988.
Unfortunately, the start of our cruise was delayed somewhat by the need for a haul-out so that prospective buyers for Two-Step could do a hull inspection in Malta. Since we were now in the yard we decided to do some work on the boat that we had planned to do after we'd completed our spring cruise but before we knew it one thing led to another and we were a month behind schedule. This always seems to happen when you're waiting for parts to be shipped in from various destinations to complete what should be straightforward upgrades and repairs. However, we were happy that the sale of Two-Step was progressing with a couple we felt really loved the boat.
Finally on June 2nd we got underway and set sail for Sicily where we would later meet Two-Step's prospective buyers for a more indepth test sail. We anchored at Porto Palo the first night after a wonderful daysail from Malta 55 nm across the Malta Channel and then had another lovely sail from Porto Palo 30nm to the ancient and beautiful harbour of Siracusa the following day. This was our second visit to Siracusa. You may recall our first visit in 2002 where we filmed the “10 Euro Challenge” in the abundant and picturesque fish market there. If you missed it you'll find it documented in Episode 17: Siracusa in the [Distant Shores Volume 3 – South Italy and the Adriatic Sea DVD].
On this year's visit we were stuck in Siracusa for three days of heavy rain – unheard of in this region in June! Just our luck. But Siracusa is a lovely town and a very protected harbour so not a bad place to be stuck. There is good holding in the anchorage but not at the town quay so during the rain many boats left the quay and found a cosy spot to anchor in the bay. Crowding was not a problem since the bay is enormous. Besides running our anchor lights faithfully when swinging on the hook, we also raise an official anchor mark, pictured here, which is common and expected practice in this part of the world.
From Siracusa we had a quiet day of motor-sailing to the marina at Riposto, 40nm north from Siracusa along the coast of Sicily, recommended by Maltese friends who cruise this coast frequently. We were not disappointed when we arrived to find a modern well-equipped marina with excellent security and friendly staff who we could communicate with in English. But the best thing was the view of snow-topped Mount Etna, the smoking volcano that serves as a dramatic backdrop to the harbour.
The next morning we were up early since we had a big day ahead of us. We would be fighting currents, whirlpools, criss-crossing ferries and big ship traffic through the narrow Strait of Messina which separates Sicily from the Italian mainland. See Episode 15 in the [Distant Shores Volume 3 – South Italy and the Adriatic Sea DVD] to learn more about the Strait of Messina. Our destination was the little yacht club at Gioia Tauro, 55 nm from Riposto on the Italian mainland. Luckily it was a calm day so, although we were fighting head currents through the strait, we weren't bashing into confused seas or accelerated head winds.
As before, when we approached the strait we saw many swordfishing boats dancing between the whirlpools. These boats are unique in that they are steered from the top of their tall masts and have a bowsprit longer than the length of the boat. When a fish is spotted from the mast top, the harpooner goes out to the end of the bowsprit and catches the fish by hand. As we sailed through the strait, Paul and I recorded a podcast about what we were seeing, as well as tips on using electronic navigation and ways to access the internet while cruising.
We had been warned that Gioia Taura was an industrial harbour but when we arrived at dusk we were surprised to see huge container ships coming and going. The little yacht club was at first hard to spot as we dodged the ships but was well protected and the members friendly and welcoming. As guests we were offered one night at the pontoon for free but since the club was a long way from town and the place was thick with mosquitoes we decided a one-night stop was enough.
The next day was a relaxing one as we planned a short run of 18nm to Tropea which all our guide books claimed was 'the most picturesque beach resort in the region”. The winds remained light from behind so we sailed “wing and wing” at a leisurely pace along the green mountainous coast savouring our last days aboard Two-Step.
Tropea lived up to its reputation but we decided to stop for only one night and make miles north to Naples where we would be doing most of our filming for Distant Shores. We were still behind schedule and once caught up would return to Tropea to spend more time poking around the historic upper town which overlooks the harbour and fabulous beach.
The passage from Tropea to the marina at Torre del Greco just south of Naples would be 155nm which would require that we sail overnight but once again conditions were calm and although we weren't going to get to do much actual sailing it was nice to know we were going to have a comfortable night. However, as we cruised along Paul was surfing the internet on his laptop and discovered some updated information on the tranquil little harbour at Maratea which was closer than Torre Del Greco but had train connections to Naples. If we went there instead we would save a day of travelling and get caught up on our filming a little bit.
Being able to surf the internet at sea is really wonderful. Google Earth is becoming a valuable research device for us when route planning these days since we can get a good visual picture of harbour layouts. Getting up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and charts is probably the most valuable. In Italy we were able to get unlimited access to the internet 24-hours a day through our cell phone. (You don't pay additional air time for this or for incoming calls as you do in North America). For 20 euros per month flat rate through the mobile phone company WIND we had a good fast internet connection as long as we were within range of a cell phone tower which was pretty much all the time since we were coastal cruising on this trip. TIM offered a similar plan but for 25 euros and you could only surf between 5PM and 8AM. Offers are constantly changing so it pays to investigate the latest rates and options.
We decided to change plans and head for Maratea although we would be arriving in the dark but we could see from the aerial image on Google Earth plus our charts that it was a straight-forward well-marked entrance. With the radar overlay on our Raymarine C80 chartplotter we shouldn't have any problems. Unfortunately about two hours before our arrival we were hit with a heavy rain squall so started to doubt if a night landfall was wise but we quickly saw from the radar that the rain was just a local effect blowing off a mountain peak that we were just passing by and that the coast was clear after that. We proceeded onwards and arrived safely at the harbour under clear starry skies around 11:30 pm, tied up at the guest pontoon near the fuel dock, and went to bed.
Daylight revealed a lovely little harbour where we were greeted by the harbourmaster to learn that we could stay on the guest pontoon for free and that yes we could walk to the train station from the harbour and go directly to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. It was about a 3-hour ride but the train left at around 7:30 am so we had a fascinating day exploring and filming around the amazing ruined city of Pompeii where everything was so well-preserved under the volcanic ash that buried it.
Frescoes were still vivid, gardens re-grown, mosaics intact. It really was fascinating to wander around for the morning (you could spend several days there the city is so immense) and imagine that final day when the volcano erupted. The audio guides we rented for 5 euros each were really well done and even had extra features on additional topics of interest relating to the site and history of that era in general so highly recommend them if you are thinking to making a trip there.
From Pompeii we took a bus partway up Mount Vesuvius and filmed around the volcano for the afternoon. The views from the top of Pompeii and Naples were stunning but as the volcano was still steaming it did make you wonder why people were still living down there!
We hopped the train back to Maratea that evening and prepared to head south to spend quality time exploring Tropea. More on that and the rest of our spring cruise in our next newsletter....
Share the Sail
One of the reasons we are really excited about our new boat is that we will now have room for guests on board and invite you to plan your winter get-away with us in the Caribbean this year! Schedules are now posted on our website and weeks are booking up. So if you are considering this we encourage you to act quickly so we can hold your ideal week and destination open for you. It would be really fun to have you and your crew join us on board!
Name the Boat Contest
We are still undecided about the name of the new boat. We've narrowed it down to a few choices including Southerly Explorer, Distant Shores, Ocean Dancer, Panache, and Velocity to mention a few. So we have decided to have a contest and invite you to send in your votes. New ideas for names are welcome too. Some we have already received are Sea Shard (like seashell), Shardonnay (like the wine only spelled differently), Wanderlust (an old favourite), and Beach Baby (since you can beach the Southerly). The prize will be one of our DVDs. Deadline is August 15, 2007. Thanks for your input!
Sheryl and Paul Shard