The weather forecast was favourable to sail from Sicily to mainland Italy, the wind was due to be force 3-4 from the southeast and our plan was to head along the bottom of the boot towards Crotone which would be approximately 150 nm.
We got ourselves and ZigZag prepared for an overnight passage, untied our lines and left Catania harbour avoiding the ferries on our way out.
It was a lovely sunny day with a clear sky and flat seas, the wind was blowing 10-15 kts as forecasted so once we were out of the harbour entrance we lifted the sails and were sailing along at 5 kts leaving Mount Etna smoking in the distance.
Unfortunately this only lasted for a couple of hours until the wind dropped and we had to start the engine. However, we had lots of entertainment watching several pods of dolphins swimming around the bow and diving under the boat.
After motoring all afternoon we suddenly heard a change in sound from the engine and an alarm sounded. We stopped the engine and Paul went below to check what the problem was. He returned shortly afterwards with a cable from the alternator with one end broken off declaring ‘this could have something to do with it’. After rummaging through our ‘spare cables’ cupboard he found one that would fix the problem. Less than an hour later the problem was resolved and we were up and running again.
The wind picked up slightly in the evening so up went the sails again and we were sailing downwind very slowly at 2.5 kts. It was very comfortable sailing for a few hours allowing us to enjoy dinner, but as the evening went on the wind and subsequently our speed decreased. As we still had 100 nm to go, the engine came back on!
Once the sun went down we had an uneventful night with hardly any other boats out. It was a star lit sky with a small ‘banana’ shaped moon.
After watching the sun rise the following morning, the wind started to pick up a little, still only a force 1-2 but having heard enough of the engine we decided to get the cruising chute out, with this large light wind sail we were sailing again at 4 kts.
The latest weather forecast stated that a force 4-5 wind would finally arrive at lunchtime. As we would be approaching Crotone at that time we decided to make the most of the wind and continue a further 120 nm to Otranto just around the heel of Italy.
Once the wind started to increase we needed to take down the cruising chute but it somehow got stuck halfway down. At this point we thought that we may have to revert to plan A and go into Crotone to get up the mast and release it. Paul resorted to laying down on the deck with his binoculars to try and identify what was happening at the top of the mast. Although this was not conclusive it did give us the confidence to give an extra hard tug on the offending halyard which had the desired effect and the sail came flying down.
We put the cruising chute away and unfurled our main and genoa. As the wind increased it bought some swell with it but at last we were sailing at 6-7 kts. The wind strengthened to 25 kts, so with a reef in both sails we were sailing along at a good speed.
With a second uneventful night, we were getting into our watch routine doing 4 hours on and 4 off with me enjoying sunset and sunrise and Paul covering the graveyard shift in the middle.
On the morning of day 3 we could see land again and just had a short distance to go around the heel to Otranto, which is a small town in the province of Lecce.
After travelling 273 miles we anchored in the bay overlooked by the city walls of Otranto. The passage had taken us 53 hours of which we sailed for 27. We were ready for a swim, lunch and then a siesta!