Sicilia, Ionian Sea, Greek Islands, words rhyming with summer tranquility and beach umbrellas. Do you think Karukera’s crew overlooked postcards ? We didn’t wear our raining jackets this often since April, which will solve our hygiene problems, but mix humidity and heat, and you will have thunderstorms. The anemometer will rise up to 60 knots numerous times in ten days, the winds and the rain are intense. Good training for the crew, hoisting and putting down the sails a little bit too often.
Heading to Greece, we leave the Stromboli behind. We have to take the Messina strait, the separation between Sicilia and the foot of Italy, a necessity to go to the most oriental point of our voyage : the Ionians. Scylla will be our last harbour before entering in the eastern mediterranean, a highly mythological zone. The nice western breeze forecasted, will quickly turns into a good eastern breeze, and we can see thunderstorms far away on the horizon, disappearing while we get closer to the coast. Scylla’s harbour is quite not dedicated to leisure sailing, but one ferry dock is free, only used on Sundays. A charming, free harbour ? Awesome !
The same kind of thunderstorms that of the previous day, will violently interrupt the town tranquility. Winds fastly rise to 60 knots, the waves coming from our stern, and Karukera is pulling strongly on her lines. So hard that we will tear off a mooring cleat from the concrete. Thanksfully Oliver released the rope fast enough, or it could have sunk our boat. The episode will last around one hour, and 7 lines are attached to all strong fixation points of Karukera’s stern, with the engine at full power to release the lines’tension. One of our stern cleats will almost break, and will damage a tiny little part of our deck. An easy repair, but we are exhausted, fully wet, and we surprisingly enjoy a hot tea in the middle of the summer.
On the following day, we head to Reggio Di Calabria, a very expensive marina that offers a lot of services. We need to refill before crossing to Greece. An unexpected meeting will happen with Saveiro, a typical character of Reggio. Taxi driver, shipschandler, mecanician, wine, cheese and salami producer, offering various unexpected but helpful services. The nautical guides mention him, and he his well known from all ships cruising in this part of the mediterranean. He will drag us into his place, where we discover car and windsurf rental are some others of his activities. Offering us a fresh glass of good white wine, we leave with a whole parmiggiano and some salamis. The next day, he will post our postcards after dropping us up at the ATM, before driving us to the supermarket. He will wait for us with the car’s bonnet open, on a forbidden parking space, simulating an engine problem. Saveiro has his tricks, and will manage to sell us red wine and some more salamis. It’s time to leave before we become penniless!
500km and approximately 60h of navigation to go to Greece, and with the moderate south breeze forecasted, we think the weather window is perfect. And on the first day it is ! We take advantage of it to 3D print new buttons for our oven, who were really damaged.
Being 5 aboard, the first night is not exhausting. Far away, we see lightning illuminating the horizon. But we are at the edge of the system. For half an hour, the wind will blow 180° from where expected, before getting back to normal. Not a big deal. The second day is great : the boat sails quickly, and we travel through a lot of miles. At the end of the day, the air is hot and moist, and the wind slows a little bit. We see the first lighting just after twilight. They will follow us all night long. We are surrounded by big Cumulonimbus that appears in the flashes of lightning. The density is close to photo-shooting standards, with fresh drinks missing. If the thunder has obviously a very small statistic chance of damaging a sailing boat, if it does it could be very harmful. We tie the anchor chain to the mast ‘cables, and establishing a bridge to water, we reduce the potential damage that the hull could suffer. We Zigzag in the middle of thunderstorms, and will get very lucky not to get closer than to 3 kms from a thunder. We made a 15km detour to avoid an impressive cloud, covering all over the sky’s verticality.
Numerous times at night, we will suffer the powerful gusts close to clouds so dark that we can see them at night. The wind will rotate so many times during this episodes, and the anemometer will measure gusts up to 60 knots. Hoisting the sails and put them down in the middle of the night is a very physical exercise for the crew. With a suffocating heat, conditions are off course ideal to rest our spirit and body. Headlamps are ready all night to be able to react to any situations. Because we have to joke about this, we make a nice garland around the compass.
But the sun is setting up, and the intense cloud cover have one merit. The dawn freshness will accompany us for long hours. While sleepers rest, the manoeuvring team has time to revisit the raining vocabulary. Drizzle, mist, showers : the variety is as surprising as confusing. While we are at the beginning of our last main stopover of the trip, and as we think to the gorgeous Brittain’s weather that will awaits us in mid-November as we get back, what does this intense rain tells us ? Probably that the Mediterranean forecasts can be even more wrong that in any situations we have encountered before.
But this hard crossing is getting to an end, and smiles are coming back. The Greek islands are on sight !
We need to do the check-in with the immigration services in one of the entry port of Greece : Argostopoli. On Cephalonia, the first stop seems dazzling: the night costs 12€, and comes with the same services as Italians 4 times more expensive marinas. A supermarket and a market 50 meters away, and numerous kebabs in the surroundings will offer the crew all he has been looking for after a long time in Italy and during the crossing. We have ten days to enjoy the Greece’s pleasures before heading to Sicily. A few technical problems are awaiting us, but we will take a good shower on Argostopoli’s dock before noticing it !