Magna Graecia

Methoni is an example of a great anchorage and I was sad to let it go. Alas, the wind changes, and the life of the sailor is bound to its whims. The forecast for the next 3 days looked promising to sail to Sicily, although we would take a rather longer route: we would first sail towards Malta to catch the favorable wind and then, when we were close to the island, we would steer north again towards mid-south Sicily. The wind looked indeed promising, however, it looked also quite strong and I was not 100% convinced. Jelle had a point, though, as this was our only weather window: for the next two weeks the wind would be only south, which meant if we did not sail now, we could not cross to Sicily for a long time.

On Wednesday, 26th July, begrudgingly, we lifted our anchor and started our motor. The first two hours we motored and once the wind picked up, we hoisted our sails. We put two reefs in our main sail and full front sail. After a few hours, the wind died out and we had to motorsail. During the evening though, the wind picked up a lot, with force 6-7 and we had to put down the front sail and hoist the staysail! Rain also made an appearance and the conditions were not ideal. However, Libra was flying with at least 7 knots average speed and when she surfed through the waves, she reached even 9 and 10 knots! The first night we kind of did shifts although Jelle did most of the night shift. The second day was worse, as Elena got seasick. The poor girl was throwing up a lot, and that made two of us, as I was busy taking care of her the whole time. With two of the crew out, Jelle remained solo sailing the boat. Thankfully, the wind reduced during the afternoon and our trusted windpilot handled the wind and strong gusts amazingly well. During the night, Elena and I went to bed together and we slept the whole night! Poor Jelle did the whole night shift alone, but as the wind reduced, he was able to get a shut-eye, in intervals. The wind died out at some point at night, which meant motoring. On the third day both Elena and I were finally healthy and eating again so Jelle managed to get inside the cabin and get a proper rest. After a few hours of motoring, the wind appeared again but light, so we decided to hoist our spinnaker! It was a good decision, as Libra was easily reaching 6.5 knots of speed with very light winds and Elena found our new, big, purple sail very exciting! The last 13 hours of the trip were motor only, as the wind completely died out.

We arrived at Licatta on Saturday, 29th July at noon. That meant we had sailed 427 nautical miles in 70 hours! Our average speed was 6 knots over an almost 3-day trip, what a success! A night in the marina was exactly what we needed;  we rinsed the boat off, cleaned inside out, and then took a long hot shower on shore. We walked around the marina and it felt so good to finally stress your legs after 3 days on board! We stayed 6 nights here. If you ever wondered about Licata and thought of visiting, do not. If it is any indication,  Tripadvisor has as the first “thing to see” in its list the Licata marina. So that was it, we were in the most popular and worthwhile place in the whole town. Jokes aside, Licata had a tiny square, a church, and a castle on the cliff but lacked any beauty or charm: it was rather depressing and dirty. There was a tiny mall next to the marina with a food court where we ate most of our meals; pizza was good! We spent most of our time in the marina itself, strolling around, playing games with Elena, stocking up on sleep and food, and waiting for the wind to calm down so we could leave.

That day came on Friday, the 4th of July when we released our mooring lines and motored our way to Sciacca, another small town in south Sicily. Sciacca has a historic old town which according to reviews and pictures should be cute, but we did not manage to visit. It is up the hill, which is difficult to walk with Elena. Plus during our time, we had strong winds and even stronger gusts. We did stroll around the fishing village close to the marina though, tasted “limon granita” and had excellent seafood by the Corallina restaurant. The marina itself was a nautical club with a very friendly atmosphere; boat owners and marineros were often around the marina office which served as a common room as well, drinking coffee and discussing. The constant swell and the loud creaking of the old pontoons were making staying on Libra almost unbearable, so we found ourselves many times in that welcoming marina office/common room, building Lego houses, writing our blogs, or just relaxing.

On Tuesday, we left Sciacca and motored our way to Selinunte where we anchored. Selinunte was a rich and extensive ancient Greek city, a real example of Magna Graecia but all that is left now is a rather impressive temple of Hera, well visible from a distance. The view was magnificent and the holding good, but the swell was terrible.  Libra was rocking back and forth, left and right and we just spent the day inside, watching films and waiting for the swell to calm down. As expected, early next morning we set course to our next destination: Mazara del Vallo.

After the rather disappointing places we visited so far, Mazara del Vallo was a breath of fresh air! Lively city, with beautiful Piazza della Repubblica, statues, street art, windy cobblestone roads bringing memories of Arabia and Turkey, and various churches and museums, scattered around the center of this vibrant, multi-ethnic town. We had real, Italian gelato and the best pizza we ever tasted before. We loved our time here, in this little town, full of color and surprises in every corner, a big fishing fleet in the middle of the city, and live music from different corners and bars.

We would love to stay longer, but Aeolus had other plans for us: wind direction and intensity perfect to leave Sicily and sail to Sardinia. Or were we?

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