During our brief foray into cruising the Med, a lot of people have suggested that it is cold, rainy and unpredictable. All of those things are correct, but by way of reference, it is better than the predictable cold and wet of Toronto, at least in my opinion.
Because of the uncertainty, we planned to cross the Ionian Sea from Albania to Otranto, Italy on Saturday and as described in my prior post, it was a bumpy ride. What has come since then is way worse, and we are happy to be tied to a dock while the storm passes.
Winds in excess of 35 knots have been pretty consistent for the past two days, and Otranto doesn’t offer a great deal of protection. While the opening is in the East, the swell finds its way into the harbour very easily and we are literally squeezed between two boats and every bit of motion sends all three of us writhing in the water.
On Sunday when we did finally pull up to the dock and back in, I knew we would have to squeeze the boats on either side out of the way, and that is exactly what happened. Sunday morning afforded us calm waters and negligible wind, so I looked like a pro when 20 or 30 people gathered on the walkway to stare at what must have seemed impossible. Jinhee and I use radio headsets so she can direct me from the stern while I remain in the pilothouse with all of the controls close at hand. Our information sharing is improving so that she is giving me good data to maneuver appropriately and thread the needle as it were.
Here in Otranto, we are staying below an old walled city (Turk I believe, I didn’t really get into the history here), and we ate in and around town. While much of the food was just okay, I did enjoy the Oricchiette alla Nona at Restauranto Dal Baffo. Many of the stores and restaurants are closed because it is the off season, but some remain open and we were appreciative of the service from the ones we visited.
Most of my Greek telecom devices (that were supposed to work anywhere in Europe), failed to work here in Italy, so we rented a car today to drive to Lecce and purchased a new MiFi device, this time from Vodafone. (Essentially a mini, battery powered router/hub for multiple connections to the internet). I also had to call Vodafone to convert my plan to something else because the person I was working with was ‘wrong’ apparently and the service I paid for on Friday was for Greece only. The money I paid for that ‘top-up’ as they call it is gone . . . *poof*
In any case, we are now up and running with one good phone and two good internet connections, so communication will be easier. We know we are overpaying for this stuff, but the prices are really much better than in Canada, and we rely on internet for so many things now. It just makes sense to have these devices.
The trip to Lecce also allowed us to see the old city there. We visited a number of churches and went to see the artwork from one of the Duomo’s there. The difference between Otranto, which is a pretty small town and Lecce which is a much bigger town is stark. Lecce has beggars, and a wide variety of skin colour is visible. Because we had a rental car, we drove around the town and noticed the diveregence in housing and shops. The town appears to be diverse and alive with people milling about, shopping, being tourists and of course working.
When we arrived back on the boat, the harbormaster came to collect the bill for our time here. We paid €60 per night for three nights and Jinhee and I agree that it was too much for a crappy slip, poor protection from the weather and a town shut down for the season. Again, it was nice to have a safe place while the storms blew over, but we won’t be back so soon at those rates.
Tomorrow early, we will brave the remnants of the storm (primarily high waves) and head south to Santa Maria di Leuca for one night, or depending on conditions head straight to Gallipoli where we have heard there is better protection from storms (which will be coming fast and furious by the looks of it).
For now we are simply looking for a decent place to hole up for a while, particularly given Jinhee’s travels to Chile and Florida at the end of the month. I just want a nice place to ride my bike, read, eat and sleep.