2 November 2018 to 7 March 2019
We confess to feeling a tinge of regret at choosing Licata for our third winter home immediately upon our arrival in November. Perhaps it was the muddy coloured water that greeted us at the harbour entrance or the torrential rain that ensued, leaving the town with a damp, deserted, even derelict air.
But whatever gloom we felt about the place soon lifted as we settled in and got to know the town better. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to park up for the unsettled winter months. It might not always have been sunny but the end of pontoon P1, under the careful watch of the lighthouse (the third tallest in Sicily)
and the castle, was a perfect temporary home for Pintail. Marina di Cala del Sole proved to be one of the calmest marinas we have ever been in. Double sea walls meant no swell and even in some of the strongest winds we barely felt any movement in the boat. More often than not the water was mirror still.
It took a while to unpeel the layers of the old town with its paint-peeling pallazzi and to start to understand its rhythms, although we never did quite get to grips with the opening hours of its shops and cafes. There were times when it was like a ghost town and times when it absolutely fizzed with life but seemingly nothing in between.
Although no match for the likes of Catania, Syracuse or Ragusa, Licata has its quota of Baroque churches including the Santuario di Sant’ Angelo, which with its grand facade and cupola sitting on a large piazza we mistook for the cathedral for ages.
It was a while before we realised that this crumbling edifice and its tiny adjoining courtyard (home to the fisherman’s club) was the duomo and its piazza.
Immediately around the town were opportunities for walks along the coast. Guarded by the stray dogs, Miranello Beach was a lovely place to stretch our legs.
The climb back up to the top of the cliff and passed Cappuccini cemetery with its extraordinary tombs was good exercise
and the long walk around the harbour wall was rewarded by great views back to the town and the company of some very regal looking stray cats.
As in Greece, the Christian festivals are celebrated loudly and brightly in Sicily and Licata was no exception. As the supermarkets filled their aisles with pannattone the Christmas lights went up and the events started.
For the first time since Gibraltar we were around long enough to put up our decorations on Pintail and join in the celebrations.
Carnival in early March, however, was much bigger and noisier than Christmas. As in Agios Nikolaos, the events leading up to the beginning of Lent were a real spectacle. Kicking off with a surreal evening of circus cabaret in Piazza Duomo delivered by a sailing troop of French artists and musicians, their interpretive dance and other antics bemused both the old fishermen and the miniature superheroes who came out to see them.
In the days that followed there were as many as three parades through the town accompanied by costume wearing locals and pumping sound systems late into the next day. It was like a cross between Mardi Gras and Halloween.
And the floats were as impressive as they were ever so slightly creepy. We could not quite work out the significance of Einstein and his exploding head to this celebration of feasting before the deprivations of Lent. It was difficult to explain how in the Anglican tradition Shrove Tuesday means simply the cooking of a humble pancake with a squeeze of lemon and some sugar and definitely no throwing of confetti.
When we weren’t off exploring southern Sicily, its west coast and Malta the marina did its best to keep us to keep us entertained. They arranged for the local cinema to show the film Bohemian Rhapsody in its original English and we nearly filled it with boaters! They put on free Italian lessons twice a week which I joined and really enjoyed. My Italian definitely improved thanks to our lovely teacher, Cettina, and we also learnt a lot about Sicilian culture and history from her and our visit to the local museums.
And we both enjoyed the rewards of my cooking lessons with Mariella and her never ending supply of lemons and cedri.
Of course we also did the usual round of routine maintenance jobs, essential repairs and equipment upgrades. This year a new toilet for the aft heads. The old one sat in the cockpit for a while. “It’s a new feature” Stefan said “in case we get caught short on night watch!” He also attempted to tackle the repair of our diesel heater but when it came out it crumbled to pieces and we decided to buy a new one. Getting it to work meant three weeks of frustration for Stefan as he wired and rewired but now, just as the temperatures rise, it works perfectly!
Our biggest purchase were the new sails. Our old ones were getting worn and out of shape making furling them more tricky so we bit the bullet and bought a new pair which we hope will be more efficient in lighter winds. We chose Pintail red for the UV strips and had her logo printed on the main sail. Just to make sure everything matches we bought some new red sheets.
As the end of our winter approached we checked all the safety equipment and bought new flares, stocked up on provisions and started planning another year on the sea.
Thank you lovely Licata for making us so at home during our Sicilian winter and to all our new friends for all your good company, tools borrowed, meals and stories shared.
But special mentions goes to
Harriet and Gustaf of SV Miss Sophie for being wonderful quiz team partners and Rummikub opponents. Harriet, grazie mille for being such an encouraging Italian classmate and Gustaf, Stefan is very sorry for dropping your hole cutter in the water!
Sarah and David of SV Wandering Star for encouraging us to exercise more than we probably would have (although less than we probably should have) and then undoing it all with coffee and cornetto and pizza and prosecco!
And last but very far from least (although no photos exist) to Nici and Michael at our favourite Licata cafe – the stern deck of SV Tama which was always open, the coffee and Ferrero Rocher always free and the brilliant banter always in perfect English.
We hope to see you all again somewhere out in the big wide blue…