Captains blog 28 -Having Thom for Dinner

And so, it was time to head out on the last big voyage of the season, which would see us into Licata on Sicily. It was still dark as we headed out of Sleep Deprivation Bay! After a night registering a full 10 on the discomfyometer. The swell was from the SW and we were heading WSW, it could be a long uncomfortable trip.

Thankfully it became less rolly after a couple of hours and we settled into our 177 nautical mile journey to Roccella on the Italian mainland. It would take around 35 hours to reach our destination and we’d be travelling through the night.

All went well until around 4am when the first mate woke me in a bit of a flap. The wind and got up and hooning down with rain. Things look much more intimidating at night and this was a very very dark night. You could see the rain illuminated in the stern navigation light but beyond that absolute nothingness.

We made a few adjustments and waited. The rain stopped and not long after the claustrophobic darkness that had enveloped us began to give way to the first signs of dawn. The sea was now fairly calm as we motored into waters rich with tuna. They were jumping and swimming alongside, so it was time to put out the line and, it wasn’t long before we’d hooked one.

My initial elation gave way to the realisation that if said tuna didn’t escape soon, I’d be faced with the daunting task of turning Mr Flappy into succulent tuna steaks. I began to pray that the outcome would be similar to our previous catch, which resulted in the tuna tipping me a wink before reuniting itself with the deep blue briny.

The first mate was keen that this one was landed, dispatched and served up. She’s not a monster, honestly, but has offered on numerous occasions to do the necessary if I didn’t have the stomach. I do wonder how many spiders ended up as amputates or worse when she was young.

Anyway, we manage to land Thom, the tuna. He frantically slapped off the sides of the bucket we’d utilised. “Okay then, its mmm time to, ah we need to, you know, so umm could you pass the thing, you know, the winch handle, the big one, mm please”.

I felt bad but opted for a good hefty clout so he’d depart rapidly and stop wriggling. It didn’t work so I belted him again and then again. There was an occasional twitch but the deed was done, he’d departed this mortal coil and it was now time to turn attention to his innards. There was blood covering a good section of the swim platform and me, but Thom had been turned into steaks and the waste had been washed off the back as crab fodder.

We could have put the line out again and fed the whole marina well with the number of fish we saw, but one kill was more than enough and we knew we’d eat well that night. And we did!

Mooring in Roccella was great. We were on a finger pontoon for the first time since we’d moved into the Mediterranean and it was like being back home or mooring along the Atlantic coast, a lovely big comfort blanket. Oh, and the first mate was pleased to be back in the home of gelato (apparently, it’s for her bones!).

We’d only be staying to see out the storm that was bearing down and after a few days we were ready to fuel up and move on. Just one problem, we’d arrived as they’d started resurfacing around the fuel pontoon and we’d missed our one opportunity to get some fuel.

No problem, I had 20 litres in a container which I emptied into the tank. I’d head to the filling station 5 Km down the road on my folding bike and refill the container. It took a while but I managed to get the fuel and balanced the 20 litre container on the downtube of my bike. Whenever I was given a strange look I simply said “I can’t ride it, it’s out of fuel”. They stared at me blankly.

The entrance to Roccella marina is prone to silting so you have to steer a steady course when entering or leaving, which wasn’t easy with a big swell washing directly across your course. We made it out without incident and were facing our last night sail across to Syracuse on Sicily. We listened to some BBC “you’re dead to me” podcasts and settled in for the night.

I was having a kip at around 6am when I became aware that the engine had be switched off. The first mate had made a decision to set the sails and dispense with the motor. It was a great decision, we sailed at between 5 and 6 knots all the way to Syracuse on a beam reach with a lovely smooth sea.

We entered the small marina we’d opted for after numerous unanswered calls over the vhf radio. We went as far as we could and were looking straight at the marinero in his office. He looked at us for a second then continued chatting with some folk opposite him.  Eventually he sauntered out and over to our mooring spot the spot. He pointed and mumbled something so I acknowledged, saying “grazie, grazie mille signore”. This wasn’t a direct translation of the words in my head! “YOU MISERABLE ARSE, oh I’m sorry, did we disturb your precious chat, mm? mmm? Pah, moron”. I finished with a smile and wave.

Syracuse was a top spot with more of its fair share of interesting places. Narrow lanes criss-crossed the old town popping you out next to a fort, a cathedral, roman ruins or a beautiful garden. We were having a great time, but needed to move on.

 After a few days we left for an anchorage on the South East tip of Sicily. We anchored next to 2 other sailing boats and the following morning all left around the same time. We formed a small flotilla with Gianti up front and all heading for Marina Ragusa.

Once moored at Marina Ragusa we caught up with our friends Erling and Karin. They’d be heading back to Sweden within week or two, so it was great to catch up properly before we moved on and they headed home to Gothenburg. We made the most of our time there before our very last journey of the season.

We left the marina with main sail up although we were motoring. After a couple of hours, the wind had got up sufficiently to set both sails and turn off the engine. The sea state was calm and we were sailing at between 5-6 knots, so I decided to put the fishing line out one last time. Within an hour we’d landed another tuna. It was the perfect end to our sailing season and I couldn’t help wondering how I’d cope with being stuck in one place for the winter. Time will tell, I guess.

Right then, I’m off to close the hatches and start my hibernation.

Have a great Christmas.

Captain Mac

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