Marina di RagusaJuly 25 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C
Life as boat owners has been eventful to say the least, if not filled with a great deal of sailing!! Within days of arriving Sam and I started to suspect that the headaches, fuzzy throats and fatigue we were experiencing were perhaps more than just a side effect of a run of interrupted nights of sleep and dehydration. A covid test confirmed that we had indeed managed to catch our second dose of covid, so we began our boating life in quarantine! Luckily (for us, if not the Italians), we'd done a food shop the day before testing and Sam's was a very faint line so he was negative within a day.
We also had plenty of jobs to keep us occupied to keep "cabin fever" at bay. We began by emptying and repacking the copious contents of every cupboard, locker and drawer, throwing out or donating the few things we knew we definitely wouldn't need and documenting the whereabouts of everything else that looked useful. Mostly by their proper names, but occasionally with a more descriptive "useful looking plastic thing" or "mystery metal object". We also spent several days scrubbing the hull and scraping back the many layers of flaky varnish on the teak before sanding and sealing to bring Odyssee back to some of her former glory.
Although we haven't had chance to work on our sailing yet we've definitely picked up some other skills along the way. We became plumbers to fix a holding tank leaking into our bilges (I won't go into detail but I can assure you it is a spectacularly unglamorous job that if given a choice we wouldn't have done in 35 degree heat!), electricians to sort out some noisy cabin fans and mechanics to flush the fuel lines and clean out the carburettor on the outboard engine (closely supervised given Sam's history of dubious refueling on dinghies!) and to service the main engine.
Our RYA engine maintenance course gave us a good starting point but it turns out that servicing an engine that hasn't been serviced in the last 5 years and has oil and fuel running through it is a more challenging and messy task than we had previously experienced! Once we realised it was seized on, the 5 minute job of changing the impeller turned into a 2 day task in which we dismantled the whole sea-water pump and used every tool ever invented in an attempt to get it off. Although incredibly frustrating at the time, the immense satisfaction of turning the engine back on and finding that not only is water not leaking from the pump but it was actually coming out of the exhaust as it should, was worth it and gave us a boost in confidence that with time, perseverance and the help of books, Google and YouTube we could figure a lot of things out!
Unfortunately, there was also an issue with the voltage regulator in the alternator that we first noticed on the journey from Tunisia but became more pronounced whilst in Marina di Ragusa, to the point we didn't dare go out until it was fixed (luckily the battery monitor is designed for simpletons so even I could recognise that the sad face was probably a bad sign!) We decided that engine electrics were a little too specialised for out bumbling attempts to fix things so after a rather unhelpful response from the boat yard on site, Sam contacted a chap called Elia who had done the viewing with him back in May. As well as a side business as a local contact for the boat broker he also runs a boat yard in Licata (the next marina to the west of Marina di Ragusa). As luck would have it he happened to be visiting our marina on other business so brought his mechanic with him, who disconnected the alternator to be checked by the marine electrician in Licata. All going well (and assuming no parts need to be ordered) we may well have a fully functioning engine by the end of the week!
Because having engine issues isn't enough to keep us entertained, Sam decided to channel his inner Lucy and fell down a hole in to the gas locker resulting in a rather spectacular "egg" on his ankle. Luckily he's able to weight bear and there's not too much bruising so hopefully just a ligament sprain that will continue to settle with a bit of time, rest and ice!
Between these setbacks, or as I rather optimistically like to call them "learning opportunities", we've had chance to get to know the local area a little better. Marina di Ragusa is a nice little town that seems to be a hot-spot for Italians on holiday with a lively square and seafront parade as well as a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters and golden sand. It also seems to have an unwritten rule that you must be under the age of 25, tanned to a shade of mahogany and in possession of toned thighs and washboard abs to be on there! Thankfully, Sam and I can play the ignorant tourist card and continue to be the oldest, whitest and flabbiest bodies on the beach! The situation is not helped by my new favourite food, the canoli (a very healthy combination of deep-fat fried pastry filled with a sweetened ricotta cream!), Sam's insistence that chicken nuggets and chips is a "healthy" dinner choice as it isn't as carb-heavy as pizza or pasta, and a mission to sample every flavour of gelato. Yoghurt and orange is the current unexpected favourite, zuppa Inglese (directly translated as English soup, a trifle-flavoured variety definitely was not!) We've also dusted off the BBQ and discovered a brilliant pizzeria just 2 minutes cycle from the boat!
Marina life is good and we've already met some lovely people from all over the world, most notably Bill and Nancy (an American couple in their 80s who have spent the last 25 years cruising in various boats) who we met on our first full day and who have taken us under their wing and are always on hand to offer advice and share their experience of sailing and the local area.
We've also taken a few day trips to explore the surrounding area on our bikes, finding a fairly secluded beach through a nature reserve to the east, and a small, pretty fishing village to the west. We also caught the bus to Ragusa (the main town about half an hour north of Marina di Ragusa) which was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2002. Of course being all-consumed boat people now, before we could wander the cobbled streets and admire the beautiful churches we took a 7 mile round trip walk to an industrial estate on the far side of town to stock up on spare engine parts that weren't available at the local chandlery.
A boat owner's work is never done so we have a few more jobs to work through in the next few days, most pressingly Sam's pursuit of "acoustic perfection" in a sound system that currently only seems to allow two out of four speakers to work at a time on a rather intermittent basis and a few other day trips from Marina di Ragusa before hopefully setting sail towards Syracusa!Read more