Saturday, 28 April 2012

Through the Straits of Messina

Yes, this is why we love Italy

We have now arrived in Reggia Calabria. The Straits of Messina neither blew with fearful blast nor whirled with fearful wallows! No Scylla nor Charybdis. But lots of huge ferry and boatish monsters, so I had to keep a keen lookout at the helm (we chugged with furled sails because hardly any wind).
The weather has turned wonderful and the past three or four days have vied with each other in excellence.
As David said, "You couldn't get it much better than this" -- a kind of summing-up at the end of a near-perfect day.

Description of Near-Perfection at Sea
The boat sleeps tranquil at her mooring, it has been a quiet night; gradually dawn spreads across the sky, the small birds start to cheep. (At Tropea marina there are house martins nesting in the eaves, swooping around when I go to have my morning shower.)
We have breakfast sitting in the back (aft) cockpit. Consisting of most excellent fruity, nutty muesli (yes, in southern Italy!) with juicy fresh oranges. And sometimes freshly-made coffee (hand-ground in our small wooden coffee-grinder brought from Holland).
We get ready for the day's sail, checking that seacocks are shut, and all objects safely stowed in appropriate non-banging places. We turn on all necessary switches on the display panels and switch on the engine.
We have alrady consulted the weather forecast for this sea area -- as well as looked at the larger scene.
All predictions appear reassuring!
I, standing in the bows, let loose the mooring ropes, while David cautiously backs off from the pontoon, or jetty.
The sea is quiet, we motor gently out beyond the breakwater. Once outside, David turns the boat into the wind and hoists the mains'l. On the best nearly-perfect day we can sail a beam reach with the wind lfting us along, and scud through the water at six knots or more Then David can switch off the engine and the only sound is the slap slap of the waves against the boat's side and the comfortable creaking of the rigging. (I think this is where Dutch wins the gold medal, with the word klots, for the  sound of watery slapping...)
I sit at the tiller (helming!) and watch the water, the infinite patterns peaking on the wavy surface, or, when it quietens, the curious fine zig-zag effect like crepe soles or the bottoms of boat shoes, and then when the wind dies down completely and the sea is molto tranquillo, the smooth oily spread like molten pewter. And no more wind. So we turn on the engine again and chug quietly, and David makes a splendid salad (wonderful fresh vegetables, such as one cannot come by in the north) small almost sweet cucumbers, crisp fennel, tomatoes of all sizes, from cherry to cuor di bue (coeur de boeuf) which are delicious even when they are green. And moist toothsome bread (the best is rye bread, segale).
The day dreams on, the hot sun is shaded by the boat's canvas bimini, I have my water bottle to hand, the glittering sea spreads to the horizon, scarcely another vessel to be seen. All seems harmonious.
I sing, loud above the waves, David energes from the inside where he has been working at the nav. table, and smiles.

Yes, this is why we came to Italy, for all of this, the light, the colour, the music of the language, the many-tasting food and wine, the warmth of the people and the sun, and this life...
It is three weeks now since I landed in Naples, to be met by torrential rain, followed by days of stormy wind and cold and wet. So what joy when this changes.  No more Scylla and Charybdis for a while.
Not that the wetness really deterred us, and we did manage to see Naples, Pompeii (choosing one fine day out of many soggy!), Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello, Salerno,  Acceriola, Agripoli and Mariate. Each one worth a chapter. But time rushes on... will attach some pix.

Above is Agropoli. Below David the culinary expert...

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