Corfu to Italy

We spent from the 1st to the 4th August in Mandraki Marina, situated under the old fort in Old Corfu town. We spent the first two days on maintenance. Robbie serviced the main engine and the wing engine, and then spent about 10 hours replacing the main seal on the crankshaft on the Northern Lights 12KVA generator. A massive job, involving lifting off the very heavy alternator, weighing around 120 kilo’s on the generator. Of course the seal was at the very back of the generator, so it took a few hours to pull it all to bits and only a minute to replace the seal! Robbie rigged up a pulley with some timber and the 5:1 retrieval man lifting rescue device that we have on board. Peter came and assisted with the big lifting and moral support. The engine room temperature when Robbie started was 50 degrees, it eventually cooled down to 42 degrees on the first day, and a bit cooler on the second day. I was continually supplying cold waters and wet cloths that I froze and then gave to him to wipe himself to try and cool down. Robbie reckoned that he came out looking like Twiggy, and lost 5 kilo’s a day. Maybe I should try this!

We were paying 50 Euros for the berth which includes water and power. This is OK, some marinas you have to pay for the water and power on top of the berth fee. As we were entering the marina Robbie queried the marina guy (called a Harbour Master but it’s really only a small marina and he’s really a marina manager, not a real Harbour Master as we know it) on the power ampage, and he said we will have 16 amps, great this means we can run the air conditioning on the shore power. Not so, the first night we had a real early night and went to bed with our bedroom air conditioning running. We feel asleep straight away but woke up when the air conditioning shut down, Oh the power has tripped we thought, and went back to sleep. Turns out, the guy off a boat 2 berths down had pulled out our power plug when the main fuse tripped, and Peter and Heidi saw him do it. Peter queried him and then he got really aggressive and came back with a few other men so Peter let it lie. We were oblivious to it, we thought it was in the middle of the night that it had happened and we went straight back to sleep anyway.

The next day Robbie approached the guy and informed him we were only pulling 4 amps with the one air conditioner but he was cranky and aggressive and had a bad attitude about motor boats so it didn’t go well. Turns out there isn’t 16 amps and once all the yachts are berthed at night time the power system isn’t big enough and it trips the whole system.

Once the main maintenance jobs were completed we walked into old Corfu town and then caught a cab to the Harbour Masters Office to check out of Greece, not so easy, we then had to go and hand our transit log into Customs office in the New Port. The boys also needed to buy some tools and long story short, we ended up walking about 6 kilometres in the middle of the day in 40 degrees heat. We eventually did everything and then caught a cab back to Old Corfu town, and had lunch with Peter, Heidi and Lisa. We found a nice little side street café with home style cooking and I had Moussaka which was delicious. Robbie had a veal dish which was very tender. Our last Greek restaurant meal! We had a swim later in the afternoon at the small beach on the end of the marina, it was really nice and refreshing.


We departed the marina at 7:00am on the 4th with only 3 knots of wind and headed to Othonoi Island, our last Greek anchorage. It was an uneventful passage, apart from us briefly entering Albanian waters and then back into Greek waters. We passed 4 cruise ships as we cruised up the passage from Corfu, arriving at 1:00pm, where we proceeded to drop anchor. Not so easy, it was a very small and shallow harbour, we only had a meter or so of water under our keel. The first attempt we ended up over rocks in 5 metres of water. Neither of us was very comfortable, and luckily one yacht departed so we up anchored and snuck into that space as another yacht arrived and they had to anchor over the rocks. The water was crystal clear and just beautiful for swimming. Robbie took the underwater camera when he swam to check the anchor, you can see now how an anchor lays! It’s quite a remote island and not a tourist destination so only a small village. It’s mainly visited by yachts transiting from Italy to Greece and vice versa. We didn’t even go ashore as we were both quite tired, and having a no alcohol day we were quite happy to stay on board and watch a movie.


6:30am start, not so bad. We had checked the weather, as had Peter on Stormvogel and we were expecting good weather for our crossing from Greece to Italy, approximately 55 nautical miles. Well we were surprised! No sooner had we left the bay the swell began, it was on our starboard bow and between 1-2 metres. We were rocking and rolling and it was uncomfortable. We had to quickly put a few things “down” such as we lay the TV face down on the lounge, my couple of decorations in the boat which are unbreakable anyway but we put them down on the lounge also and generally anything loose goes away. I am pretty anal about tidiness anyway so there’s never too much to put away. My job is also to shut all the portholes which I had already done (or thought I had!) About an hour out I needed to go to the bathroom, and this is always unpleasant when its rough and this is when I get to feel seasick when I go down below, you can see the big waves out the portholes and if I put my head down, I’m a goner! Well I walked down the stairs actually you can’t call it walking, it’s more like staggering like a drunkard, and as I got into the door into our bathroom, the floor was wet. Crikey what has happened? Oh Shisen Housen!! (Our favourite made up German swear word) I never closed the port holes in our bedroom or bathroom. Oh God, the water had pushed out the flyscreen in the bathroom porthole and the bath mat was soaked, the carpet was wet and even our bed was wet. I quickly shut the porthole without trying to get the screen back in and proceeded to soak up the water with the hand towel, that was quickly saturated, then I grabbed my cleaning cloths that I keep in the bathroom cupboard. The 2 shelves under the window had about an inch of water in them sloshing around, and Robbie’s electric razor and cord were swimming in the water. (Aren’t I Lucky it’s on its last legs and he needs a new one anyway!) Hmm I will have to confess this sin, I won’t be able to get away with this misdemeanour! Luckily the portholes on the Port side of our bedroom didn’t take any water in, there was only a few tiny splashes or drops of water.

What happened was that I usually always close our room up first, then do the spare bedroom. For some unknown reason I didn’t do that and did the spare room first, plus I had to close the 3 hatches which we don’t usually have all 3 open but as it’s been so hot, we have had every hatch and porthole open. Anyway I goofed up big time, but I did confess and when we anchored we took the carpet up and put it in the engine room to dry. There was no real harm done but it was a very good lesson for me.

As we had over 20 knots of wind Stormvogel was able to sail – hooray! For many months we have had little or no wind and recently they have been able to sail. They were flying along at a great pace, over 8 knots. We cruise at 6.5 knots, but in this weather we were down under 6 knots sometimes. So Stormvogel were a few miles ahead of us entering Italy. They checked out the anchorage and dropped anchor just outside the breakwater and entrance into the marina.

The approach was quite picturesque, with impressive limestone caves in the cliffs. We arrived about half an hour after Stormvogel and dropped anchor near them. Robbie immediately dived into the water with mask and snorkel, which was quite clear, to check the anchor. Ours was good but Stormvogels anchor was hooked on a rock, so they re-anchored. There is a massive, very impressive Stone staircase going up the side of the hill above the marina, this was built by Mussolini as a ceremonial gateway into Italy. I decided we had to climb this!

We secured the boat and Peter and Heidi picked us up in their duck to go and complete the entrance formalities, and our first mission which is to get SIM cards for our phones so we have voice and data communications. We now have a very impressive collection of SIM cards from around the world. We tied up in the marina near the building that looked the most like the Harbour Masters, and it was. Unfortunately he was out on an operation and they told us to come back in an hour. So we walked into the town, to try and source the SIM cards. Not so easy! First of all hardly anyone speaks English! We got conflicting advice, yes you can buy them in the town, but we couldn’t. We determined we had to drive to the next big town, either by Taxi or rental car. The tourist information girl told me there are no taxis here. I walked across to where the others were sitting waiting, and there was a sign with Taxi and phone no. Eventually we found a small hut that was the Taxi and rental car agent but they were closed. It seems most businesses shut down every day from around 12 til 6pm for siesta. We walked back to the Harbour masters office but the Coast Guard said he had spoken to him on the phone, and he was on a big operation and wouldn’t be able to see us until tomorrow. We had wanted to leave tomorrow but they said No, you have to check in. So it was agreed we would come back between 7:30am and 8:00am in the morning.

We had a drink in the yacht club, still no alcohol for us just water and enjoyed the view over the marina. We headed back to the boat and cooked a curry for dinner and into bed for an early night. Not to be, a live band had set up on shore about opposite where we were anchored and they played until around midnight. No complaints about the music they played, it was great all our era but we didn’t sleep. I had set the alarm for 6:30am and we got up and prepared to go ashore again. There was absolutely no sign of life on Stormvogel, we figured they had also had a sleepless night like us so we thought we would leave them asleep. We were also not sure if they actually had to check in, as they are an EU registered boat, and EU citizens. We are not and we knew we definitely had to check in.

We arrived at the office, it was very quiet and no one around. We sat on the doorstep and as I got my phone out to look at the time, the door opened and the Coast Guard on duty very abruptly told us we were too early, he didn’t speak good English but eventually we realised it was only 6:30am now!!! Arrrrrh we were supposed to change our clocks back one hour for the time difference between Greece and Italy! Shisen Housen, we talked about it yesterday but never did it and then forgot all about it. No wonder there was no sign of life on Stormvogel! So we decided to make the most of it and take the walk up the steps built by Mussolini. There were lots and lots of steps and in the middle were some strange rock formations, which we figured out was actually a waterfall but now unused. It would have been very impressive in its day.

At the top is a beautiful stone church, Basicilia Pontificia, with some gorgeous statues, and stunning views over the marina and surrounding coastline. We had a wander around and at 7:00am the church bells rang, except the bells were not moving? Strange, but there was a loud speaker and that’s where the sound was coming from! A little disappointing but I guess it preserves the old bells. We saw a motor scooter that carries a spare tyre? Never seen one of those before! We choose the road back down rather than the steps and then sat and waited for the Harbour Master to arrive.

He drove in not long after but we very quickly got the impression he was not very happy. We waited until 8:00am and then tentatively entered the office and approached him. At first he ignored us for the first 3 “Hello’s”, and then very coolly answered us and pointed out that the office hours were 9:00am until 12:00pm only and that he had come in early for us. Originally we had thought we would check in as early as possible and then depart for the next anchorage, which is a 70 mile passage. We then decided against that idea as we prefer a real early start for a passage of that length. We do not like to arrive anywhere in the dark to a new anchorage.

Eventually he became very friendly and chatty and really pleasant to deal with. He informed us that we needed to learn Italian as not many Italians can speak English. Peter arrived in the meantime, wondering why we were there and hadn’t waited for them, seeing the funny side once we confessed we stuffed up the time differences. Turns out Stormvogel did have to check in also. The process was slow, it was completed by one of the Coast Guards, all manual and in old ledger books and overseen by the Harbour Master, whom was dressed very officially, all in white even down to his white boots. Very impressive!

Once Peter and Heidi completed their check in, we hired a car a Peugeot 207, not real big but the 5 of us squeezed in and set off to explore the countryside. We headed North East towards Maglie, our main mission was of course to get SIM Cards for our phones. We stopped in at Gagliano where we got the Sim cards, we were also able to post our Furuno chart memory cards to the Head Office in Rome, where they will update the charts for us. The language barrier seems more evident in Italy than anywhere else, they do not speak a lot of English. We started off with a coffee stop, it was so cheap for the 5 of us, 2 cappuccino’s, a soft drink, a beer and a water and a pastry (I won’t say which Scouser had that) and it all only came to 7 Euro’s. You couldn’t get 2 cappuccinos for that in Australia!

We ended up in the Lotto shop instead of the Post Office, and the guy didn’t speak any English and didn’t understand what we wanted, however another customer understood what we wanted and he very kindly led us to the Post Office in his car while we followed in the hire car. Very nice of him. There was a long queue in the Post Office which is also a bank, there were 3 tellers for the banking side and 1 for the Postal service. We were able to convey what we required and fingers crossed the parcel will arrive! Service seems to be much more manual and slower than we are used to, makes me appreciate the efficient Australian business practices.

We set off again heading towards the town of Maglie, around 50 Klm’s North, the countryside was very dry and unremarkable. We turned towards the coast and then made our way down the coast road. This was beautiful. It is a rugged coastline but very picturesque. We stopped and walked down a number of steps to a restaurant and had a cold drink. They had a lifeguard and a timber deck with steps into the water and a few people were swimming. There was no beach just rocks but very clear water. You could also hire a sun lounger for 10 Euro, which a lot of people had, and were sleeping and sunbathing. We had a quick game of 500 while we enjoyed our drinks (water) and then set off again.

We arrived back into the township of Santa Maria De Leuca and made a quick supermarket run and then I took the groceries back to Southern Star in the duck while Robbie returned the hire car, and then picked him up. We had a quiet night enjoying the sunset over the town.

5:30am start this morning for our 70 nautical mile run to Crotone. It was lumpy and roly and I was very pleased to arrive around 4:00pm. There are 4 offshore oil platforms just off the harbour. Peter had suggested we try and anchor in Porto Nuovo, the commercial harbour, there is a shallow 5metre area that “Frati” had recommended. It was very shallow and the water was very murky. We dropped anchor and were relaxing and watching a large container ship manoeuvre off the wharf and “Stormvogel” take on fuel at the fuel wharf when the Coasta Guardia visited us in their duck and informed us we had to move, it was not permitted to anchor here. We had to move around to the Porto Vecchio, the pleasure craft marina. It was a very shallow entrance, down to 1.8 and we had to manoeuvre around a yacht that was grounded in the entrance.

Peter and Robbie bargained with the Ormeggiatori (little Mafiosi who run the marina, often there can be a few operating different sections of the marina’s) for 45 Euro’s for both boats. It was a bit humourous with them wanting to charge us more as we are a power boat, they wanted us to pay 60 Euro. Eventually we won and both paid 45.

We cooked onboard and then at 10:00pm a jazz band began playing with a singer on a small pontoon set up in the marina. We sat and watched for a while, there were a number of locals there also. We didn’t stay too long and went to bed.

Another early departure 6:00am for Roccella Ionica, a 60 nautical mile passage. I didn’t want to go to this marina as I had read both in our Italian Waters Pilot book, and on the Noonsite website, that this was an extremely dangerous entrance, and yachts have capsized trying to enter. There is a sandbank right at the entrance and the entrance silts up and is continually changing. One yacht got picked up by a 20’ breaking wave and dumped upside down. Unfortunately, there is a real lack of anchorages and marina’s on this Eastern side of Italy and we really had no choice but to go there. I rang and spoke to the marina manager and he said they send a duck out every time to guide boats in and they had berths for both boats, he quoted us 60 Euro and that included power, water, Wi-Fi, showers and toilets, the guide in and also included him! Ha we don’t need all that!

The passage was uneventful but a lot of swell. The coastline is now more attractive and a lot greener that it has been. I read my book pretty much the whole way (I am re-reading “The girl with the Dragon Tattoo” it’s so good I can’t put it down) we arrived at 4:00pm and Stormvogel were ahead of us. This is good for us as they leave a track that we can follow on our AIS and the guy came out in his duck and also guided us in. The depth got down to 2.2m, it was quite windy also which didn’t help. The adrenalin was pumping for me, Robbie as always was calm and collected. It was a relief to enter the calm marina and we got an alongside tie up, which is much easier than the stern ties we have been getting everywhere else. Just after we tied up we had some Australians from Melbourne come and say hello, they were here on holiday and said they were pleased to hear some English!

Stormvogels crew came over for a game of Euno and drinks and nibbles (water for Heidi & me) before we headed over to the Pizzeria on the edge of the dock, which had been recommended by “Frati”, it comes by the metre! We couldn’t believe how many tables and chairs they were setting up, there were about 150 hundred plastic tables being set up. We asked if there was a special occasion but they said no, this is normal for every night. Sure enough the pizza came out on long wooden boards. It was OK, not the tastiest but sure beats cooking and dishes! Robbie had a walk around the marina while we were waiting and spotted an Australian Riviera 36’ on the hardstand. These are built in Coomera, Queensland very close to where we lived at Coomera Waters! Nice to see a little bit of home!


Another 60 nautical mile passage today to Sicily. We left at 5:45am, with a glorious sunrise, it was flat calm and we followed another yacht out who was being guided by the marina guy in a dinghy. All good and no stress this time. Tried to ring Jessie for her 25th birthday -eek she’s my baby (youngest child) and I don’t feel that old!! Couldn’t get through so while I have a load in the washing machine I am updating the blog. The 3G internet through our Sim cards is not as good as it was in Turkey or Greece which is disappointing. We are only a few miles off the coast of Italy and the internet isn’t working, yet we had really good internet all the way on the 50 mile passage from Greece to Italy on our Greek cards. 

Robbie has been busy for the past few days with his rods out, trawling lures, really hoping to catch a fish. But no luck, hasn’t even caught a plastic bag! He has also been doing some trials with different rpm’s and distances covered using the stopwatch on his phone for one hour to gauge fuel consumption, and trying to find the most economical speed and distance covered at various rpm’s. 

Today we have seen a number of fish traps, similar to what we saw a lot in Indonesia with palm leaves and a float, called a FAD – fish attracting device. So we are diverting close to the FAD’s in the hope that there is fish around them, and that they will take a lure. Fingers crossed! Trying to post this blog is very trying!!!


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