Even though the sun had not even rised we were ready to depart. We’ve been waiting for this time for many months since we were planning this trip during winter and our daily conversations were only about the preparation.
It was as if we’ve been living only just waiting to enjoy our coffees sitting on the inflatable tubes, a few minutes before we start on our long journey ...
These moments have such a sweet pleasure that I would never change this feeling for anything in the world. Once you taste, feel the breath of the open sea and the joy of the journey, the definite is that your thoughts and your only desire in your life will be to enjoy the endless dream blue. And then, it is impossible to be able to adjust to the "mainland’’ small world. Your soul will be permanently out there in the waves, caves and tranquil sheltered coves, in enchanting tacks and unforgettable sunsets.
We released the ropes and I pushed hard the dock in order to move away the starboard of the Rib. I pushed the throttle lever forward and I was slowly going out of the marina while wiping the instruments from the morning humidity.
We were starting from the bay of Plataria and 11 nautical miles separated us from the southern cape of Corfu, from where we were going to put our course to Croton of South Italy.
I marked the destination of Croton on GPS, a course of 260 degrees and 145 nautical miles open sea. Apart from that I had previously marked on the nautical chart the same route which was adapted on the door of the Shearwater’s cabin, on which I had noticed all the required information of our course, alternative routes and ports, in case something went wrong.
I took out the nautical notebook and placed it on the console. From now on, it would be our only companion, updated every hour. I noted the departure time and our position.
And the journey begins. The bow rises for a while up until it find its position in the horizon and got in our course. The Rib had 560 liters of fuel and it was so much loaded that there was not empty room for anything. The sea was good, but not so peaceful as it usually is in the mornings at the Ionian sea. I was quite anxious, despite the forecast about 3 Beaufort maximum.
Time 08:40 After one hour trip our position was N 39° 18' 64 E 19° 40' 76.
We were travelling with 25 knots speed at 4.250 rpm, with a consumption of 41 litters per hour and 122 nautical miles of distance remaining to Croton. At these rpm our speed and consumption (1.64 litters per nautical mile) are very satisfactory, considering the Rib was overweight. Big swells were coming from southwest on our port bow. The direction of swell was unusual for this area in August. I still doubt about the weather forecast, which we have indeed crosschecked at several meteorological site.
Time 10:40 After three hours journey the conditions do not seem to be as planned. Our position was N 39° 16 '59 E 18° 55' 30, and we had to cover 87 nautical miles yet.
Our speed reduced at 17 knots.
The engine rpm was between 3700-4000, with our consumption at 35 liters per hour.
The southwest wind was getting stronger and now big waves, without any periodicity, were hitting us on port bow.
Time 11:40 Our position was N 39° 20' 05 E 18° 35' 60.
We were hardly keeping our speed at previous levels. The wind got even stronger so we were hardly covering every mile. At the fourth hour of our trip we had covered just 13 nautical miles and they were left 74 more.
Time 12:40 Our position was N 39° 21' 14 E 18° 35' 17.
The sea state had not changed at all. We were travelling northern than the normal course so as to go on easier and painlessly. During this time we covered 12 nautical miles.
Time 13:40 Our position was N 39° 07'03 E 17° 52 '95.
The weather began to decrease, therefore we could navigate at our initial course. Our speed got steady at 23 knots, the engine speed at 4.000rpm and the consumption at 37 liters per hour. 38 miles were left and everything seemed fine.
Time 15:40 Completely tired, we were entering the port of Croton, yet we were in a very good mood. However the heat was unbearable and we did not want to stay at the port.
So, the bow turned to Rocella Ionica, the marina which was ideal for the night even if I knew that there was no possibility of refuelling there. Six years ago I had visited Roccella Ionica , and still I found this place remaining as wonderful as it was. The only difference was that it was full of boats, since it is a strategic point for the travellers from the Tyrrhenian sea to Greece and the Adriatic.
Passing the Strait of Messina (Skylla-Charybdis)
In the next morning we departed to Tropea, which lies on the west coast of Calabria, 30 miles north from the Strait of Messina. We passed by Capo Spartivento and kept travelling the south coast of Calabria.
The sea was tranquil and just above our bow the legendary Mount Etna could be seen. We travelled a short distance to the south coast of Calabria, but our eyes were stuck to the volcano in Sicily. Our bow was moving slowly northward, entering the Strait of Messina, the well known mythical Scylla and Charybdis.
The sea got very angry and an incredibly fierce full north wind was coming from the mountains of Sicily. It was the fifth time that I was passing through this strait, and each time I was meeting completely different conditions. The strait has its own rules ignoring barometric pressure and forecasts.
The waves were reaching two meters straight ahead our bow. They were so intense that we could not travel slowly.
Therefore, we had to go on fast having the engine’s trim at its most negative point.
Without any doubt it is one of the most famous straits in the world , well known from Homer and Odysseus’s adventures.
One of the most bad famous sea passages, since they were living there the two incredible sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. We were in the “heart” of the strait and had just taken a big dose of its legendary energy.
Scylla was living in the eastern point of the northern entrance of the strait, at the side of Italy, where nowadays the homonymous village lays.
It was a fearful monster, with twelve feet, six long necks and mouths, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth.
At the western point of the strait, at the side of Sicily, there was Charybdis, a sea monster whose gigantic whirlpool swirled in the straits of Messina. She was probably the goddess of the tides, representing the high-low tides of the day. These monsters were a sea hazard located close enough to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors. Whoever tried to avoid Charybdis meant passing too close to Scylla and vice versa.
Apart from the mythical dimensions of the strait, the legend was preserved and afterwards the stories of the sailors who came face to face with wizard weather – sea conditions, such as currents, eddies, whirlpools and very strong squalls. Without being able to give a reasonable explanation about all these, they thought that something odd was behind all these.
Of course, these strange phenomena can be explained.
The tidal streams in the strait are caused by the different times of high and low water between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Sea that is twice each lunar day there is a maximum slope southward and twice each day a maximum slope northward.
The difference in density between the two seas creates currents which can bother small vessels. When wind blows against tide there are short high breaking seas and in addition to the eddies and whirlpools problems may be caused to small yachts.
These specific conditions are more intense in the northern part of the strait which is narrower than the southern part.
Heading to Tropea
We passed by the side of Charybdis astonishing the strange view of the sea. Outside the strait, the Tyrrhenian Sea was calm. 28 nm were left to Tropea. Throughout the trip, we were starring at the west coast of Calabria , which despite the eastern coast is amazing.
When our bow was beneath the medieval castle town of Tropea, we were speechless by the astonishment view we were facing.
Although it is not quite well known to travellers, I consider it as one of the most enchanting spots on the Calabrian Coast. It is Tropea's position height on the cliffs which makes the town so dramatic.
We headed to the marina located northeast of Tropea, the root of the rock on which is built the castle. It is a lovely and spacious marina, made in a very quiet location, ideal for accommodation and overnight. In addition, it provides everything needed –fuel, water, electricity, bathrooms, toilets, café, restaurant and laundry-.
From the west point of marina, 200 nearly steps leads the traveller to the Medieval town. The old town is full of beautiful buildings of the 17th century, with many palaces , noble houses and many churches. Tropea's Norman cathedral, the Duomo, is one of the most interesting buildings in town.
Narrow streets , pastel coloured houses and little hidden squares where you can enjoy food and coffee.
Narrow streets , pastel coloured houses and little hidden squares where you can enjoy food and coffee.
Tropea has a lot of small and affordable restaurants serving traditional local food.
The walk to the main street Vittorio Emanuelle is a real experience. The splendid square Piazza Ercole lies in the middle, while continuing further down, the road leads to one of the most beautiful balconies of the Tyrrhenian.
We reached the street's sudden end, where a set of metal railings offer a dramatic view over the beach and sea.
The view is breathtaking…
There are beaches on either side of the town, where the water is invitingly clear with white sand.
It’s worth while coming on afternoon to see the amazing sunset with the colours of amethyst.
On our left the most famous place in Tropea, the Chapel of Santa Maria dell’Isola is dominated. It is a building of the 16th century, situated on a cliff, connected with mainland via a narrow part of land.
It is worth visiting the Tropea, the "Coast gods", the" Diamond of the Tyrrhenian", as rightly called.
By nightfall wandering in the old town, and only when we felt that our feet did not bear, we took the road back to the marina. Our tiredness was great and the little cabin of the Rib was very comfortable and sweet, promising a delicious sleep.
In the next morning, enjoying our coffee on the Rib, we were thinking of our next station, Costiera Amalfitana…