We crossed the strait of Messina from Taormina in Sicily to mainland Italy. We ended up in a place close to the tip of the boot of Italy called Bova Marina. We motored during the crossing because we didn’t want to take any chances with the unpredictable weather in the strait. In the end we had little wind but many eddies (a unique experience). In Bova Marina there was only one motor yacht anchored and we had a quiet night with flat seas and little wind. The next day we anchored in Africo, a rundown beach with unfinished buildings and few locals. Even the fishes deserted that place. We were the only ones anchored there and had another quiet night except for the swell that came rolling in the morning. Getting low on water and electricity we decided to stop in a marina (there are not too many of them in Calabria) and went to Rocella Ionica. The pilot had a nice horror story about a sailing yacht which when trying to enter the harbor got rolled over by a Malibu kind of wave because of a sand bank next to the entrance. Luckily it was not super wavy yet when we arrived and the entrance had apparently been dredged earlier this year so the approach was not too tricky. In the marina we met our neighbors Christa and Hanno, a German couple cruising a large Hallberg Rassy named Happy Beat. They came from Greece and were leaving their boat in the marina for the winter. They kindly invited us for drinks on their boat. There we also met Jan, another German cruising with the motor yacht Waja. He gave us a few tips about affordable wintering places in Greece for our boat. The marina of Rocella Ionica is a bit far from the city itself (about 3 km) so we didn’t see much of it but we did enjoy the famous 1/2 meter pizza of the marina restaurant. The next day we stopped in Soverato where we used the pontoon of Blue Marine, the local yacht club (Massimo, who we later found out owns the place, nicely offered to use the pontoon while we were trying to anchor in the very deep bay). It was already end of season there and the bar was quite empty when we arrived. Valentina the super friendly waitress still made an awesome dinner for us which we enjoyed with a pretty beach view and our feet in the sand. We also got a big little tunny from Massimo so our next evening’s dinner was going to be very tasty too! We had a very good experience there and if you ever happen to be in Soverato rent one of their boats and have some drinks and a good meal in their bar! The next day we crossed the gulf of Squillace for Le Castella. We thought it would be a cheap and safe place to weather the forecasted storm. We stayed there for a couple of days, and while the pilot mentions Le Castella as a worthwhile stop-over there isn’t much to see except for the impressive castle. On the plus side we met a few more nice people waiting like us for better sailing weather: Martin and David, two German guys sailing a beautiful classic steel yacht that used to be a ketch (but is now a sloop); Bianca and Giulio, an Italian couple who just bought their first sailing yacht in Taranto and were bringing it to Sardinia; Edgar and his son-in-law Lionel who arrived a day after us when we didn’t really expect any boat to come in any more because of the weather. They crossed from Greece and had to spend the night avoiding thunderstorms. When the weather was good again everybody including us left at once. We anchored next to the commercial harbor of Crotone before crossing to Greece. It was definitely not the nicest view but a quiet anchorage for the night.
The south of Italy is often viewed as just a passage between Sicily and Greece and most people spend as little time as possible there. For that reason we didn’t expect much of it. In the end we thought this view was not justified and the coast is well worth cruising. Even if it is perhaps not as spectacular as Sardinia or Sicily the coast is still very pretty, there are plenty of possibilities to anchor in settled weather (there’s not a lot of shelter), and the people are very friendly. On top of that prices for marinas are a lot more reasonable than in other parts of Italy.
The shortest route from Crotone to Greece is about 115 NM. We would arrive in Othoni, an island north of Corfu. We left early in the morning to arrive the following morning in Greece. We first had to cross the gulf of Taranto where bad weather is quite frequent. After sailing for a few hours we were not reassured by the sight of funny clouds on the horizon, the wind started to be very gusty, varying from not sailable to way too much wind to sail. So in the end we took our sails away and did most of the crossing on the engine, better to be safe than sorry. The night was pitch dark and when the moon finally rised it was only a small crescent. Once we passed the shipping highway around the heel of Italy we didn’t meet much traffic until we approached Othoni. There we had to avoid a few big ships. We anchored in a bay in the south of the island and enjoyed the rest of the day swimming, sleeping and celebrating our arrival in Greece after 5 months of sailing!