Position: 39°04’48″N 17°08’12″E

Navigating the Straits of Messina is downright mythological. At its northern entrance lie the twin monsters of Charybdis and Scilla, whirlpools that in ancient times drew sailors to the briny deeps, never to return. These days the intrepid explorer can avoid a terrible fate by reviewing the strait’s hourly current flows on the internet. At full throttle the Tyrrhenian Sea pours into the Ionian at up to five knots. Given that Aleta motors at a maximum of seven knots, this kind of information is valuable.

Heading south the current skims the surface, whereas the northward flow runs over 30 metres deep. This ‘bank error in our favour’ meant that even with the turn of the tide against us we zipped along at over nine knots. At the last rip, just as the current petered out, the afternoon’s zephyrs built to 25 knots on our stern and we deployed a full jib. The fair wind and following seas saw us round Italy’s toe and along the ball of her foot to our first night’s anchorage.

Texas TEA

Our goal was to check out of the EU in Crotone, then make the 150-mile passage to Albania where we’d reset Aleta’s VAT clock. On our way there, we paused at Capo Colonna and swung off a free mooring buoy for a couple of nights. This cape was once a Greek, then a Roman stronghold built to fend off Saracens. These days the museum and archaeological sites mostly serve as a day trip for tourists from visiting cruise ships.

Disappointingly, rubbish collection in this part of Calabria is poor at best and the roadsides were littered with plastic bags, bottles, and household detritus of all kinds. We found refuge from the refuse in a little bit of Texas. La Fazenda Alexandra sits inside its own horse arena and serves authentic TexMex food, right down to its (Brazilian) T-bone steaks. Tex-arcania covers the restaurant’s walls, but it was mercifully devoid of MAGA caps and other political lightning rods. Had we arrived a couple of hours later we might well have line danced our way into the wee hours of the night.

Dress for Success

Crotone’s port is large enough to accommodate the Italian Coast Guard, several big European Frontex (think Homeland Security) patrol boats, two marinas and a cruise ship or two. With all the coming and going it should have been easy to check out. After all, we only needed a rubber stamp in our passports. It was Monday morning. Housed in the same building as the local police, we learned at 12:02pm the immigration counter closed at noon. The helpful desk constable told us to return the next day at 15:00.

Pitching up at the appointed hour, he then told us, ‘Sorry, no shorts – no service’. Pointing to our bare knees and then to a dog-eared sign in Italian cellotaped to his plexiglass window, he said, ‘It says so right here.’ Rather than argue, we trudged the 30 minutes back to Aleta, changed and returned with our outré legs covered in sartorial splendour. Now 16:30, we had just enough time left to find out that neither of the immigration offices was what we needed. What we needed was the mysterious officer who kept the official exit stamp in his Secret Squirrel lunchbox.

A flurry of phone calls led to the sudden appearance of a tall, slim, raven-haired female officer in mufti. She ordered us back to the station by 07:45 the next morning. We were running out of time. Wednesday morning, we appeared on schedule, in trousers, and the correct stamp was spirited from the bottom of the magician’s lunchbox. The handsome young man who had done his best to help us navigate the bureaucracy was charmingly apologetic. After four attempts and 12 miles of round trips, in two minutes we were free to go.

Grabbing a few last-minute provisions, we finalized our preparations and slipped our mooring for the overnight run eastwards. The sea was a flat calm, the quiet broken only by the engine’s rhythmic ‘ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa’ as Aleta burbled through the water. After a year in Italy we looked forward to landing in a new country.


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