From Santa Maria di Leuca, we travelled 25 nm north around the east coast of the heel of Italy to Otranto. This was to be our last stop in Italy for a while.
We only had a very light wind so ended up motoring for 4 hours (thankfully we re-fuelled before leaving) until the wind picked up for the last half an hour of the journey.
Otranto is a picturesque historic town and port on the Adriatic coast in the region of Puglia. It has a varied past, it was important as a Greek and then Roman port. Later it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans and the Aragonese.
We went ashore in the evening and tied up the dinghy in the small fishing harbour.
This just so happened to be next to a seafront cocktail bar, how could we resist a sundowner!
The town is still enclosed by its defensive walls, the Castello Aragonese formed part of the tough defences of Otranto, with its thick perimeter walls and robust towers it dominates much of the town. It was built on the site of an earlier fortress after the town was liberated from the Turks in the late 15th century.
In 1480 the town had been invaded by Turks. A fleet of around 150 ships carrying 18,000 soldiers landed to lay siege to the town. After two weeks of resistance, the Turks finally stormed the old fortress. All males over 15 were murdered and the women and children were sold into slavery.
800 survivors barricaded themselves inside the Cathedral with their bishop to pray for deliverance, however, they were soon captured. When they refused to convert to Islam, the bishop was cut to pieces and his head paraded round the town on a pike while the others were also beheaded.
The Romanesque Cathedral where they took refuge dates back to 1088 and still stands in the town. Inside there is a striking display of their relics in large glass cabinets behind the alter.
The Bishop and his 800 companions were beatified in 1771 and known as the Blessed Martyrs of Otranto. A Statue which has been erected in their honour stands just outside of the town walls. Later in 2013 they were canonised by Pope Francis.
We walked through the narrow lanes of the historic town, some are now lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.
As the evening grew darker, many of the buildings and walkways through the town were illuminated
The town became busier into the evening and we had been recommended a good pizza restaurant, so we decided to give it a try to celebrate our last port of call in Italy. It was really popular and we had to wait for an hour for a table. Well worth the wait as it was very authentic Italian and very delicious!
We left at sunrise the following morning, (although it was cloudy so you couldn’t see it) and set off towards Croatia.
The passage was almost due north for 150 nm so would be an overnight crossing. We motored out of the anchorage and after about half an hour, the cloud started to break up, we had a force 3-4 southeasterly wind and the sails went up. By late afternoon the wind shifted direction and dropped, so we raised ‘the beast’ to enable us to continue sailing (slowly). We had to head slightly off course for a while to keep the wind in the sail but it was very comfortable with very little swell.
Eventually the wind died, the engine came on and we motored through the night. We had an uneventful night, unfortunately the cloud returned so we couldn’t see the sunset, moon or sunrise, just some bioluminescence in the water created by our wake
In the morning we did have a lone dolphin swimming along with us for a while.
The forecasted wind for the morning didn’t arrive and so we ended up motoring for the rest of the journey. We were very happy to finally see the mountains and hills of Croatia approaching.
After 30 hours, we arrived at Dubrovnik. The pink line is our planned course, the dotted line is the course we actually went to enable us to sail! At one point it looked like we would be more likely to end up in Montenegro rather than Croatia!
The Croatian authorities are very strict with their entry procedures, so we first had to go to the customs dock in Gruž. Having already prepared all of the documents, it took less than an hour to check in (and pay all of the cruising fees) and we were given permission to stay in Croatia for 90 days. We then headed around the corner, under the bridge to the marina where we had booked a berth for the night. Will we fit under this bridge?
The bridge is 45 metres high and the boat is 16 metres, so we knew we had plenty of space but from the deck it still looked like we wouldn’t make it under!
We motored down the river valley to the marina and moored up with lovely views of the mountains and birds singing in the trees.
Not so happy about hearing the birds the following morning when we saw the mess that they had made on our decks, more cleaning to look forward to!!