Thursday the 29th of August dawned a little cloudy, but not too dark so we set off from our anchorage at about 5:30AM heading for Catania. There is a Waldorf school there, so we were curious about the city. Things were relatively uneventful until the afternoon, when the wind picked up. Suddenly, with the wind pushing us and the waves for once working in our favor, we were flying! At one point we were going 8.5 knots solely under sail!
Every cloud does not have a silver lining, though. It started to rain and a little later we were in the middle of a full-fledged thunderstorm--pouring rain, waves, and little visibility. It was especially nervewracking because we were only about three miles from Catania and so should have been able to see the harbor entrance clearly. Frank did not want to go into the harbor blind, so we were forced to slow the boat down and wait it out. Fortunately it was only about half an hour before things started to clear up and we could approach the harbor.
For some reason, Italian marinas are horrible about answering when we call them on the radio, so we had to go in hoping rather than knowing that there would be someone there to help us moor. A stern-to mooring is very difficult to do without help because Frank has to back the boat into what is usually a very narrow space towards the dock rather than coming alongside, so it's nearly impossible for me to jump off with a line. Once he gets into the space, he also has to contend with the bow of the boat swinging around and possibly hitting the boats on either side until someone on shore can pass someone on board the anchor line (a line which is attached somewhere either on the dock or to the bottom and is then secured tightly to the bow of the boat to stop the boat from swinging and/or going forward). All these things are complicated by wind and the fact that this boat does not really like to respond all that quickly in reverse.
Given the circumstances, we were not looking forward to mooring by ourselves, but we had no choice. Someone somewhere likes us, though, because the wind died down and there was a wide space just waiting for us. Usually the marina prefers to tell you where they want you, but it looked like more rain and we couldn't get anyone on the radio, so we took the space. Frank made a masterful mooring. We did not even touch the boats on either side and he was able to get boat close enough to the dock that I was able to easily get off and secure the boat. Frank took care of the anchor line, Max tossed me the other stern line, and we were in!
Catania is a pretty city, much nicer than Palermo. It had very few tourists, but it has lots of narrow streets, old buildings, and lots of restaurants. The maria was not very conveniently situated and it wasn't that easy to orient ourselves, but Frank managed fine, of course.
There were lots of people sitting outside, at bars and cafes and on benches and in the squares. Italians are very social and like to sit outside in groups, especially the old men. Max got a good picture of a bunch of old men having an animated conversation on a park bench. We had a yummy pizza (we had promised Max that we would have real Sicilian pizza) and went to bed, planning to get up early and sightsee.
The next day we went into town and ate breakfast. Frank and I had croissants and Max ate tiramisu. It's a good thing we are not out for breakfast every day!
We needed groceries and it was Saturday, so the market was in full swing. It took up two full blocks and was like something out of a movie with all these people crowding around the vendors and everyone talking at once. The produce was wonderful, though! We were even able to get broccoli, which we have not seen for weeks. Some of the vendors even had corn on the cob, but I distrusted it. It looked old and tough, so we passed it up.
Siracusa was only about 30 miles away, so we headed there at 11:30. This was by far my favorite city so far. It was not touristy and had interesting buildings and narrow streets. It was especially pretty with all the clouds in the background. We saw some guys playing what looked like water polo in kayaks. Siracusa is also very clean. It does not, however, have a Wegmans!
We will anchor tonight.