Truly Terrifying

(from May 27th - 30th)

I’m trying desperately to get caught up with my blog entries so I’m not writing about our experiences from weeks ago. It’s taking some time, but I’m getting there. Our journey through Sardegna and the Amalfi Coast was spectacular and the photos are worth sharing, so stay tuned!

Tonight we are in a marina called Porto delle Grazia. We arrived at 3:30 this afternoon and were welcomed by their expert docking team. It’s like old times tying up against a dock instead of stern in. Our trip here was a gentle sail on flat seas, finished off with a motor of about an hour.

After this marina, we will be making our way across the Ionian Sea to Greece, about a 34 hour journey. However, we are here for a while because the electric folding bikes we ordered back in March did not make it to France before we left at the end of April and are now being shipped to this marina. So we wait for them to arrive (hopefully in the next 2-3 days) and for the weather window to give us the best possible passage across the sea. Fingers crossed the shipping goes as planned and we can continue on with our journey before too long. In the meantime, we will take in some sights the area has to offer and take care of a few odd jobs on the boat, including laundry!

We left Panarea in the Aeolian Islands on Monday, May 27th to travel through the Messina Strait, between Sicily and mainland Italy. 

(Last sunset in Panarea)

Passage through the strait has to be timed so that the current works in your favour as opposed to against you. It can be as much as 4 knots. We made our passage through at about noon, radioing in on the VHF as required to announce our intentions to pass through because this is a major shipping corridor. On the chart, the strait is divided into shipping lanes and non-shipping lanes for both northbound and southbound vessels. The current and eddies could be clearly seen on the surface of the water. We could feel the pull on the boat. The current increased our speed by 2 knots as it pushed us along. 

One of the stranger sights in the strait was the sword fishing boats called Feluccas. The metal ramp sticking out the front was acutally longer than the entire boat. I cut it off in my photo. And yes, there are two guys standing up on top of the tower while the boat is moving! They are the lookouts, while the guy on the long ramp is ready with the harpoon. 

Our destination for the night was a placed called Reggio Calabria. We decided to skip Sicily as this point due to time restrictions, hoping to have the chance to visit on our way back sometime next year.

The marina was nothing to get excited about, but it was protected and safe and we spent two nights there so we could provision, hit a hardware store, and get Finnegan groomed (no luck). Oh yes, we also had to pay a visit to the capitainerie for the signing of our documents (note to self - always take your passport with you to the office so that you don’t have to make the 20 minute walk four times!).

Under sunny skies with calm winds, we left Reggio Calabria on May 29th to make our way around the boot of Italy and up the east coast. There are few marinas on this route and lucky for us the winds were calm and there was little sea swell so we were able to anchor for the night. It was going to be a peaceful sleep, or so I thought.

Leaving the strait looking at Mt. Etna in the distance

Not a sole was around on the expansive beach or in the anchorage in a place called Africo. We took Finnegan to shore for a walk and we did see a lone dog unaccompanied by anyone, but he was very friendly and adorable. When we left he walked off, back to the deserted buildings that looked like they had been a resort of some sort in the past. We could hear him and a few of his mates barking throughout the night. After dinner and a couple of games of Triominos, we went to bed. Sleep was immediate in the peaceful surroundings. This was not to last.

Out on the sea there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. What to my wondering eyes should appear? Not St. Nick and his reindeer. As I gathered my senses, it was the sound of a diesel engine, the sight of a spotlight shining through the cabin windows, and a complete feeling of terror inside my body. Waking Neil, he told me it was just a fishing boat. Clearly he was still half asleep. I was freaking out inside. He got out of bed and went out to the cockpit bare-chested and in his underwear! Grabbing a flashlight, he inquired as to what the guys on the large power boat wanted.They were still shining the spotlight while approaching, so it was hard to see. It appeared as though they wanted to come aboard. Neil had been able to discern that it was the Guardia di Finanza (coast guard in charge of smuggling, drugs, and financial crimes). 

They pulled up to our stern and proceeded to ask us some questions… number of people on board, last port and destination port. I answered their questions, holding up my official constituto to prove we were legally there. They asked, “What is this paper you are holding up?” I replied, “It’s our constituto showing we have permission to sail in Italian waters”. They were not the least bit interested in it. But, they accepted our answers and wished us a good night as they motored away in stealth mode - no navigation lights on at all in the dark. 

The moment of terror over, we went back to sleep. Well, Neil did. I was awake for a couple of hours more until I saw the first light of dawn. Then I was able to relax and fall asleep. On the bright side, it is good to know that the police or coast guard are out there keeping on eye on things.  


  1. Hello Hansens! Well, the adventure does continue! I would have been terrified at the spotlight as well! A shocking way to be woken out of a deep sleep! All of the movies with people asleep on their boat and terrified by a passing shipping container vessel raced to the front of my mind. I guess you will learn very quickly that you are not the only ones out there! I'm glad it all worked out without incident. You are definitely on a learning curve. Imagine how easy it will be next year when you have all of these "firsts" behind you.
    Good luck with the safe passage around Italy's boot, and we will await your pictures to come.
    Enjoy the visit with Roger and Tama (not sure if that has already happened).
    Be safe!

    1. Hello there. Wow!! What an axperients. Boy you can write Carole. Such an advantage. Say hello to Neil and a pat to Finnigag :) love to follow :)

    2. Hi! Not sure who that comment was from, but thank you!


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