Down in Catania

Santo, the marina manager, caught the lines thrown from the stern of Pantelisa as she reversed into the berth. Santo remembered Toni from when he was in Catania a couple of years ago, which helped in the generous loan of his car to ferry the Italian Navy’s empty canisters to the fuel station, fill up and back, and relay by wheelbarrow and syphon to the boat’s fuel tank.

With the boat topped up, deck cleared and hosed down we could actually kick back and relax for a bit. Note for the future, check the cockpit windows are closed before hosing the footwell, Toni’s mattress got a good soaking.

However, “worse things happen at sea” and “every cloud has a silver lining and all that.” Removal of the mattress gives access to the fuel tank and revealed a diesel leak around the tank inspection hatch, so we caught that before it found its way into the bilge and started stinking the boat out. Accidental villain turned accidental hero.

Toni treated us to a few drinks at the Piazza Vincenzo Bellini and a nice meal at the Trattoria la Pentalaccia. It’s a different experience sharing space with people on land to on the boat and I get to know Toni and Rolf a little better. On the water, the background mission is always the boat. Our lives depend on it so we are never fully off duty.

With Toni and Rolf returning home to Switzerland, I’m left minding Pantelisa for two weeks until Thomas, the new skipper arrives. There are still jobs to get done: laundry of the bedding, repair cracked bimini frame, install anti-chaffing fitment at the top of the mast, and restock the galley.

I keep promising myself to take a trip up to Etna but I stay on the boat three days without leaving the marina. I see Santo and show him the cracked frame of the Bimini. “Tomorrow, com-see…” another day passes.

I go to the office to see Santo but Tony is there instead. Tony comes and looks at the crack and says “Ees too theen. See Franco tomorrow, over dare in ze bianco building.”
“What that white block with the three windows?”
“Si, bianco.”

The next morning, I pack up the laundry into my rucksack and head off a mile through town to the laundrette I picked out on Google Maps. I stop at Franco’s “Si, he no here. You com tomorrow.”

I return to Pantelisa with fresh and fragrant bed linen. One job ticked off.

The part arrives for the mast and I collect it from the office and contact Luigi who has agreed to go up the mast and fix it. “Si, I come Saturday.”

Saturday comes and the part is fixed after an hour and a half stint for Luigi at the top of the mast in the Sicilian breeze. Second Job ticked off.

Whilst checking my messages out on the deck a young French guy wonders up the pontoon and asks if I am going to Africa and could he have a lift. The answer was no, Gibraltar, and I’ll ask the owner and skipper if it’s OK and let him know.

It turns out it’s OK with everyone and I let him know to come in a week. He turns up an hour later with his rucksack and guitar. He’s been sleeping on the beach so I invite him to use a cabin for the week: my solitude interrupted.

The next day, Julien says he’s going to Etna and do I want to go. I look up at the peak. I see the snow and think of my flip-flops.
“No thanks. You go and let me know if it’s worth it.”

Etna: €30 Cable Car; €15 Bus and €9 Jeep to the summit. You could probably save money by walking up from the cable car but it would take a couple of hours; more in flip-flops.

Checking with Thomas the new skipper about provisions, he says get what you want and we’ll need about 100 litres of water… The store that Toni pointed out is three kilometres away. Apparently, they deliver. Problem solved… until I get there and they tell me they don’t “Ees no problem. When you ready, you com and I call taxi.” Fair enough. I match what’s on my list with what they have, leaving a quarter of my shopping list unsatisfied. I leave the water. I’ll get that later.

The chap who offered to phone a taxi is no longer visible. I consider pushing the shopping trolley three kilometres back to the boat but it would be a rough ride over the cobbles in the port. I attempt communication with a non-english speaking woman. She phones a taxi number using my phone and hands it back to me with a puzzled look. I dial the number again “You have insufficient credit for international calls, please top up your…” I hang up. The woman gets help from the attendant retrieving trolleys in the car park. He doesn’t speak English either. “I take machine. Twenty hours.” flashing his outstretched fingers twice, indicating twenty.
“You mean twenty minutes?”
“Si, twenty hours.”

I can wait twenty minutes so I agree and he disappears to retrieve a beaten up Fiat 127. More like twenty seconds. He takes me back to the marina and I sort out ten euros as a token of my gratitude.
“No ten hours! twenty hours!”
Ah, I get it… I hand over another ten euros. It was still worth every penny. Third job ticked off.

There’s a different guy in the office. Not Santo, Tony or Giuseppe. I didn’t catch his name. He speaks a little English. I show him a photo of a ten litre water bottle and ask him where I can get them. “Ees very far. Need taxi.”

I message Luigi to see if he can help fetch water “I haff water on boat. You can haff. I com Friday.”

Friday comes and he has 40 litres in 2 litre bottles to add to the 30 litres already found in storage on Pantelisa. That would do, there’s plenty in the tank we can use for tea coffee and cooking, and it tastes clean. Fourth job ticked off.

I see Franco at the ‘bianco’ building. He finds me a piece of pipe to strengthen the bimini frame but he can only fix it if I bring it in. The bimini frame looks like a giant metal puzzle and I have no tools or person to attempt a repair. The pipe is meant to go inside and then riveted in place but the insert is too narrow to be tight and too short to restrict movement. There has to be another solution. I decide to deal with it Saturday when Thomas is due…

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