Ionian Sea Passage Making

27th May to 1st June

We are beginning to strongly dislike the Ionian Sea. Of the three crossings we have made, none can be described as having been enjoyable. The first was a dull slog where we only sailed a quarter of it, the second was beset with no wind and thunderstorms and our most recent was largely windless too. We really haven’t adjusted very well to the Mediterranean wind patterns of either too much or not enough.

Listening to the monotonous thrum thrum of Victor Volvo burning away precious diesel gets tedious very quickly. Trying to sail in the sloppy seas resulted in a new set of unpleasant noises as sails flapped and the boom and kicker clanked and groaned.

The wind would get our hopes up and send a F4 to F5 which had us romping along at nearly 6kts, all bangs and clanks silenced to be replaced by the much more pleasant swishing of the hull moving through water. But alas, it would only last for 20 minutes or so, just enough to knock the seas up a bit and then leave us wallowing and clanking again.

On Friday we’d had a great sail from Malta to Porto Palo, only slightly complicated by the wind going a bit more north than forecast but we adjusted our course, kept on sailing and as hoped the wind backed southerly later on and we could get back on course. Unfortunately though the wind that gave us that great sail created a swell and despite tucking in behind the eastern wall in Porto Palo, the swell snuck in and left us having a rolly rolly sleep disturbed night.

We hoped for some of the same wind for the long leg to Otranto but it wasn’t to be. The daytime was hazy, the night was damp and gloomy. The AIS played up making identifying ships lights more fraught than it should have been. As night fell we were passing the toe of Italy and trying to determine whether the dim lights we could see were on shore or ships coming down from Messina was definitely trying. Twice I diverted course to pass behind ships just to be on the safe side.

Victor plugged on, thrumming through the night. By morning we reminded ourselves this was supposed to be fun, had a bacon butty and changed course for Crotone for a decent nights sleep and to top up with fuel.


The anchorage to the north of the harbour had excellent holding and good shelter. We were the only ones there, all other anchored boats squeezed in to the south of the port. However, a night in the marina called to us with the chance to clean Emerald of weeks of red sand and have a relaxed wander around. We picked up laid lines at one of the transit berth paying €35 as the electric in the harbour was out (it came on later).

We passed a pleasant evening with pizza, beer and a catch up with the Dragons sat outside at the La Cambusa restaurant, swifts ducking and diving right above our heads out catching their own dinner. There were occasional plops falling around us but we were lucky not to have any extra ingredients from the sky land on our pizzas.

Emerald at Crotone harbour, ready for a wash

Emerald at Crotone harbour, ready for a wash

The next morning was a frenzy as more laundry loads were put on, a trip to the excellent market restocked the fresh food stores and stopped us from catching scurvy, then it was off to fill up with the dreaded diesel at €1.5 a litre. Yikes!! The diesel man wasn’t around but a lovely young man helped with our lines; we thought he was with the diesel man but he turned out to work for the restaurant.

When we left the same guy helped with lines and called out left and right to us to help us miss the shallows in the harbour entrance. We didn’t quite follow the directions exactly as I saw 0.2m under the keel, but it soon quickly increased. Maybe it helped scrape off some of the barnacles still clinging on to the flat bottom of the keel.

Back to the north anchorage we went to sit out a southerly blow. We delighted in the cleanliness of everything – us, clothes, bed and boat. No more trailing sand and dust inside from the decks on our feet. Lovely.

Until the next morning. Having breakfast in the sunshine in the cockpit I see we now have a black film of dust. We didn’t have any rain so where was it from? Over at the port was a huge mound of fine, black rock. A crane was picking up scoopfuls and loaded them into a ship. As it raised the scoop a cloud of dust trailed in its wake. All yesterday afternoon we’d sat directly downwind of the crane and its loads of rock. And rather than the dust it made falling gently meandering back to the pile, it had blown on the wind and landed on us.

A lot of grey. Emerald in the north anchorage at Crotone

A lot of grey. Emerald in the north anchorage at Crotone

Rain was forecast for later so hopefully it would clean us off again. We wanted to get off for a walk but dinghy landing opportunities were scarce with the port being surrounded by high fences, so we had our first rowed trip in Crazy Horse over to the small beach; she rows quite well. We walked along the beach and the concrete blocks of the breakwater but after less than a mile came to private land and no more beach. Oh well, the sky was getting dark so time to get back before getting soaked.

We needn’t have worried as the only rain was a few fat plops which did no good in cleaning the decks.

Crotone to Otranto

Next morning was a civilised 8am start for Otranto. After an hours motor some decent wind arrived and we could sail. It was wonderful with sun shining and a pod of dolphins leaping and splashing off to our side. The calming silence and the soporific sway of Emerald helped us forget the unpleasantness of the last passage.

As darkness arrived the wind eased and changed direction and we sailed off course at a gentle 3kts until we could see around the pointy heel of Italy and head north. With dawn the wind unfortunately went north too and just off Santa Maria di Leuca we switched on Victor. Why didn’t we sail off course? We were tired and didn’t want to add hours onto our day. Remember what I said about this being supposed to be fun? As it turned out we were able to sail a couple of hours later before motoring the last few miles into the lovely harbour of Otranto.

Sailing Info

Friday 27th May: Comino, Malta to Porto Palo, Sicily. 58nm travelled (43nm sailed)
Weather dry, winds from east, going north east and then south east F4 to F5.
Anchored Porto Palo in 4m in position 36 40.36’N 15 07.33’E

Saturday 28th May to Sunday 29th May: Porto Palo to Crotone, Italy. 186nm travelled (35nm sailed)
Weather dry, cloudy. Winds mostly variable, occasionally SE F4.
Anchored Crotone in 4m in position 39 05.739’N 17 06.9’E

Thursday 2nd May to 3rd May: Crotone to Otranto. 101nm travelled (75nm sailed)
Weather dry, sunny. Winds from south west going west then north in the morning.
Anchored Otranto in 4.5m in sand. Position 40 08.9’N 18 29.44’E

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