Dec 15, 2021
We’ve been in Marina di Ragusa, Italy now for two weeks and are getting used to the rhythm of living on a boat in the Mediterranean as opposed to Maine. Not that much different really—well, except, um, the language, the food, the scenery, the marina, and the weather! Yeah, ok, that’s a lot!
Needless to say, the weather is a lot warmer, although perhaps not as warm as you might think. The first week we were here, there was a steady stretch of howling winds and rain with gusts to 40+ knots, and it routinely blows in the 20s. We’ve also had plenty of warm, sunny days reminiscent of spring and fall. Most of the time we wear jackets, but the wind is pleasant, and the rain usually doesn’t last long…except when it does. We run a heater on the boat most of the time, but just to take off the chill. And sometimes—ok once—we wore shorts!
The marina is huge, one of the largest in the Mediterranean with 800 slips and boats from all over Europe, mostly sailboats. There are many live-aboard boats, usually couples, a number of them with kids. We’ve met a French couple with a teenage son, a young Belgian-Dutch couple who plan to sail in the Volvo 60 around-the-world race, a Swedish couple who made their way here through the French canals, an Italian guy married to a Thai woman, several British couples, and an Austrian single-hander on his way to Fiji.
The first day we arrived, there was a holiday party on the dock for all the live-aboards where we heard many languages spoken. There was plenty of food from local restaurants, and we even had a visit from Santa, who made balloon toys for all the kids, including my half-brother Tyler and Anelise’s kids, Costa and Birdie Bay.
The marina docks are super-wide, and you often see kids racing down on their scooters. There are no finger piers; instead, the boats are tied up stern-to the dock, with two heavy anchors off the bow to hold the boats perpendicular to the dock. The boats are tightly packed together with only fenders separating each boat. It’s quite a system and very common in Europe, allowing you to squeeze in many more boats; think sardine can and you’ll be close.
Cascade II is the one exception in that we are tied bow-to, which means that instead of getting onboard from the transom like other boats, we climb over the bow. Why, you might ask? It’s a hold-over from Dad & Nancy since they felt it allowed for more privacy, which it does. It also means more gymnastics getting on and off the boat.
The boat is extremely comfortable with two aft cabins, a large galley, v-berth, and salon. It has everything you’d want for a live-aboard, distance cruising boat, including myriad custom touches created by my Dad & Nancy over their years of sailing.
Dad & Nancy have been living aboard Cascade II and Cascade, their C&C 36, since 1998 and have cruised extensively in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Agean, and Azores, until two years ago when they bought a Grand Banks 36, a motorboat of the first order. Given their ages, 83 and 85, they crossed over to the other side when they realized they were no longer up to doing much sailing. Click the link below to see the book they wrote of their travels.
APTA, Dad & Nancy’s boat, sits just across the dock from us, so it’s easy to visit. Although we are on pretty different schedules, we manage to overlap with them and share meals, which has been very nice as my Dad is a great cook. One day we biked to the farmer’s market and brought back 5 kilos (11 lbs) of mussels, “de-bearded” them, and then brought them over for wonderful meal. Yesterday we invited them over for a meal in the cockpit in the warm sun.
Unlike a quaint hilltop town with outdoor dining in an ancient stone-walled piazzette that you might think of when you think of Italy, Marina di Ragussa is a modern, concrete summer European destination. Most of the houses have clean lines and are covered in stucco. Some of the larger homes along the water even have small yards, giving it an almost suburban feel.
The grocery store is a 15-minute walk or five-minute bike ride and has great food at low prices. There is of course lots of pasta of all sizes, as well as an abundance of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Some of the highlights for us have been the huge liter jars of artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes for just under five dollars, gorgeous fennel bulb and basket of kiwis for a dollar, fresh ricotta, and local sausage. One evening we accompanied a woman at the marina to a small outdoor market where people order organic produce, where we bought fresh arugula, Sicilian mustard greens, mushrooms, and whole wheat bread. And the Tuesday farmer’s market is abundant with local delicacies.
One of our first nights here, we went to a wonderful restaurant and had marinated octopus, grilled fish, and ravioli stuffed with fish topped with shrimp. Another day we went to an agriturismo 15 minutes from the marina where we feasted on a sumptuous meal with everything made from buffalo—mozzarella, burrata (similar to mozzarella but with a creamy inside), salami, steak, and stew, along with fresh tomatoes, pizza, focaccia, and cannoli. Thankfully we were able to take home some leftovers!
Another night we ate an authentic Thai meal at one of the marina restaurants prepared by the Thai woman mentioned above. The cappuccino is great, but the hot chocolate is even better, so thick you have to eat it with a spoon. Will has been harnessing his urge to have a gelato every day, but the double dark chocolate was outstanding. And on Sundays, the enterprising young French boy mentioned above delivers fresh croissants directly to the boat! Yes, the food really is great in Italy, including what we make ourselves given all the wonderful ingredients.
The main piazza is a short walk away and has a number of restaurants and bars, many of which are closed during the winter. This is definitely a tourist town with many houses empty during the off-season, so it feels a little like a ghost town. That said, on warm days there are still plenty of people about, including people kite surfing and, the newest fad, wing foil surfing.
There are beautiful beaches plus miles of walking and biking paths that extend in both directions. The marina office, laundry, and showers, along with a number of restaurants and bars, are all a short walk along the water. And today we brought a speaker and music down to the beach and danced, and then took a quick dip in the Mediterranean!
On Sunday mornings right at the marina gate is a fishing competition to see who can catch the most fish from the cement wall. These men had the most elaborate gear for what seemed like a very docile “sport.”
One day we biked to Punta Secca, a quaint town with a light house where people were gathering on a Sunday afternoon. We were proud of ourselves that we were able to hold a reasonably comprehensible conversation with an old man who wanted to tell us all about fishing.
Another day we took the bus to Santa Croce just inland where we watched kids of all ages arrive for school.
After the heavy rains and winds passed, we decided to take the boat out for a sail. Mostly we were chasing the wind, but for about an hour, the wind came up to 10-15 knots and we took off at 8 knots! It was a nice gentle day to try out the boat for the first time. Navigating in and out of the “slip” was challenging, but with the help of the marina staff nudging the bow around, we made it without any problems. It sure was fun sailing in the middle of December! We plan to sail to Syracuse in January for a month for a change of scenery, so it was good to learn the ropes on a new boat.
Click the link below to see a video captured by someone from the marina, also out for a sail.
We had the good fortune to overlap with Tyler, now owner of sv Cascade II, and his family. We romped around on the beach, danced with solar lights at the AirBnB where we stayed when Tyler was here, celebrated my birthday, and generally enjoyed being kids with them. They had just spent the past two months living aboard the boat in Siracussa and Marina di Ragussa, with trips to the north when the fierce storms came. We were so delighted to hang out if only briefly, and so very grateful that they are willing to share the boat with family.
Soon we will rent a car for a week for a mere $2/day and do some exploring beyond the local area and get more of a feel for Sicily. Until the next installment, arrivederci!
3 thoughts on “CASCADE II S2:E2”
Thanks so Much, Tasha, I enjoyed every word. I like your phormat with the fotographs. Sounds like true delight to be in Italy. Love from Maine. PS 3 inches of ice on the cove today. Looking forward to some black Ice skating.
Llove seeing your pics and words . My mouth is watering over your descriptions of food and meals. May the days ahead be full and rich. Love to you both!
Thank you both for bringing us to Italy. Can I just say how delightful it is to see folks living beyond masks with no mention of the worlds current “trauma” and showing us Living Life Large is an option for us all. Love you!