September 28, 2016
We’re back in Licata, Sicily! We left Methoni, Greece on Thursday afternoon, September 22, and arrived in Licata on Monday morning, September 26, crossing 320 nautical miles of open ocean, with then another 60 miles along the south coast of Sicily – with no stops. Birgit and Anita shared a watch, as did Andy and Syd, with the routine being 4 hours on, 4 hours off through the entire time. Fortunately, the body seems to adjust to getting sleep in three hour chunks.
It’s been a long time since we did a long ocean passage on Serafina. Going from Italy to Greece in May, then hopping from anchorage to anchorage during the summer, we did short trips, easy to plan, with a very high degree of confidence in what to expect from the weather during the voyage.
But long trips are not like that. We had forecasts as of the time we left Greece, and they looked good – but things can change a lot in four days. As it turned out, the forecasts were pretty good, but we had weather of virtually all kinds during the passage – just nothing downright dangerous. Leaving Methoni, the first twenty-four hours featured strong winds from ahead of the beam, and big, steep seas. It was a rough re-introduction to ocean travel, especially for Anita, who toughed it out in admirable fashion.
Then we had light winds for the middle part of the trip, which was most remarkable for some exceptionally brilliant night skies. With zero light pollution and dry air, none of us on board had ever seen the Milky Way so bright and dense. Lying on your back in the cockpit and staring at the starry skies is one of the memorable experiences of ocean travel. We even had some dolphins splashing alongside the boat for a while, their speed and ease in the water almost seeming to mock the trouble humans need to take to travel in their environment.
As we got closer to Sicily, occasional flashes of lightning and tall, thick clouds matched what we had seen in the forecast. Since we were ahead of schedule, and wanting to arrive in daylight hours Monday, we hove-to for six hours about a hundred miles off the coast of Sicily and bobbed around lazily waiting for the rain to pass by.
Mostly it did, except for one four-hour period of massive downpour. Luckily for Andy and me, it happened on Birgit and Anita’s watch – what could we do but sympathize…? When it was our turn, we got to deal with the very active shipping traffic passing around the southeast corner of Sicily. No near misses, but plenty of conversation with cargo skippers, making sure we were seen and that we both understood the kind of crossings we would be making (“green to green”? “red to red”? – that’s shorthand for agreeing to pass port-side to port-side, or starboard to starboard).
As usual, Serafina performed perfectly, the rebuilt transmission providing flawless service when the engine was needed. We had the motor on for forty of the ninety hours of the trip. Either sailing, motor-sailing or motoring, Serafina was steady and utterly trustworthy, and we had a wonderful, cooperative and hardworking crew. For the technically minded, we burned 0.4 gallons (1.5 liters) of diesel per hour when the engine was on. That’s terrific performance for moving 24,000 pounds of boat through sometimes uncooperative seas…
We got a very warm “Welcome Back!” from our friends and acquaintances here in Licata. We’ve been making the circuit of our favorite eating places in town, of course, Andy and Anita have taken a day trip to visit the Greek temples in Agrigento, and Maureen and Cathy (friends from the US) are arriving tomorrow. We’ll do yet another dinner at our favorite – La Lampara – and then a barbecue for all at the marina on Friday. We’re painfully aware of the need to brush up our Italian!
After that Birgit and I will be on our own, getting Serafina ready for her three months alone here in the winter. It will be hard to leave her, but we have confidence in the harbor and the marina staff.
A very special thanks to Andy and Anita for their great companionship, hard work, the IPAs and the fine coffee they brought from Seattle, and for their confidence in Serafina. Anita summed it up when we were over 150 miles from the nearest land – “I just don’t worry when I’m on Serafina!”