Chef Georgio Locatelli describes Puglia as "all baroque or breezeblock, with nothing in between". Well we've arrived in Trani, just 33 miles down the coast from Manfredonia and it's a baroque delight; aport town with a harbour enclosed on three sides, the biggest 11th century cathedral in the Adriatic and a real buzz to it that makes you believe that Puglia might just be the next undiscovered location in the Med rather than a down-at-heel cousin with a dirty secret to hide. The old town is made of white limestone and has had some serious money spent upon it to restore former glories.
when we finally got out to sail last week it quickly became obvious there was something wrong with the engine and we diagnosed a rope around the prop- despite the rope cutter. We couldn't sort it so the marina pointed us in the direction of a local diver and on Saturday we motored out to a mooring buoy and he spent half an hour and €100 sawing and working only to tell us it was 'no good' his only words of English. He indicated problems with the sail drive and the keel and we spent the weekend anticipating major problems when the boat was lifted this morning by the very helpful local yard. Luckily there are no serious issues and a little repair work will sort everything out. We have however broken another bow thruster propellor and face a two day delay in that arriving so we've checked ourselves into rather a smart hotel in the town for a couple of nights whilst we wait on DHL.
So we are enjoying shore time, with a sense of having dodged a bullet and some anger at bloody fishermen the world over who discard unwanted ropes and nets and treat the sea as a dustbin.
Yet more rain
And so the rain continues. For five days now we have endured rain and thunderstorms that have kept us mostly inside and certainly on our mooring. It's lucky that we are in no real hurry to go anywhere in the next little while although we had thought we would explore the eastern coast of the Gargano with some long day sails and some lunchtime anchorages by the cliffs, maybe a with little paddle boarding and swimming thrown in. Instead we have been reading and rapidly consuming our store of DVD box sets. There seems to be a reasonable possibility that the new week will bring new weather systems and some badly needed sunshine to Puglia so with luck we can actually sail Lyra rather than just live on her. Hopefully Tuesday. And yes, the local plonk was a step too far. Locals very friendly but we now feel we have explored Manfredonia to its limits.
we are back in Puglia and a mixture of strong sunshine, no wind, laziness and now strong winds and thunderstorms have kept us happily in the marina for a week. We are chilling out and trying to live like locals as we check out the byways of Manfredonia and dodge the rainstorms. Yesterday we had floods of biblical proportions and more rain is forecast for this evening and tomorrow. Shopping daily and visiting the markets is keeping us vaguely busy and there are always small jobs to do on the boat.
We we have today taken the plunge and bought local wine in bulk (admittedly from a rather smart wine shop) but this may be a bridge too far, even at €2 a litre...
Nearly six weeks after arriving in Croatia we have left Lyra in Puglia whilst we return to the UK for work. It's always difficult to tear oneself away but with so much Italian food and wine to explore it has been even harder this year. Not too long until we are back...
We have been in Manfredonia, Puglia for the best part of a week and I thought it was about time to note down some initial thoughts on this little- known part of the Italian coast. Marina del Gargano, our new home for the year is a brand new 600 berth marina with the luxury of side-to mooring, good security and good value for money. It's about one quarter full at the moment and is the smartest place in Manfredonia. It is obviously a major part of a plan to put the town in the tourist map and the rest of the waterfront is also starting to get a facelift, but there's a way to go as yet and Manfredonia is very much a southern Italian working town, more shabby than chic and unused to tourists. The marina is very much part of the evening passeggiata, which is just as well as otherwise it would be just us and the seagulls during the week.
Yesterday we drove over much of the Gargano, a massive limestone outcrop that creates the spur to Italy's heel and marvelled at the caves and stacks of the east coast, the ancient forests of the Umbra and the endless camping villages that cover the north coast between Vieste and Peschici. Today we explored the coast down to Barletta and saw widespread rural depopulation and unplanned urban sprawl that has somewhat disfigured ancient port towns along the coast. I think they will be better experienced by boat. So, it's scruffy, slightly down at heel and busier than anything we have been exposed to on our journey to date. On the plus side the people are friendly (patiently waiting for my Italian to make sense) and the food and wine are fantastic. We've eaten great meals in restaurants everywhere we've been and the wine- lets just say the Croatian wine we imported by neglect will not be coming out of the wine store any time soon. It's chaotic, loud, untidy and completely unlike anywhere else.
We crossed from Lastovo in Croatia to Manfredonia in Itsly earlier this week. We had a good fast passage with 15knots of wind on the beam but the limited opening hours of the port police in Lastovo (and the requirement to immediately exit the country) meant a night arrival in our new marina in Manfredonia,not the best choice in what we knew would be a confusing entrance. At around midnight, just off the Italian coast near Mattinata, we were stopped by an Italian 'Garda di Finanza' gunboat and papers inspected and passports checked and validated. They had us pinned under a searchlight and instructed us to stop and then had us take their lines. The crew were friendly enough and whilst rafted up to them we chatted in broken English and Italian. It certainly woke us all up. We then motored our way to Marina del Gargano in Manfredonia and having picked our lights, very slowly entered the deserted marina.
We decided to moor up on the empty super yacht dock at the entrance and sort out the correct pontoon in the morning. No sooner had we tied up than a Caribinieri patrol boat came in, searchlights on, us asking what we were doing. They had obviouly been following us on radar and wanted to know what we were up to. Once they realised we were harmless yachties they were happy enough to be on their way. I can confirm border security in this part of Italy is very much on the money. Safely in the marina we could look back on a successful night crossing and exhausted we all crashed out for what little of the night that remained, only to be woken by the security guard demanding to know what we were doing in the superyacht dock! Everything was sorted out the next morning and with helpful staff, we moved gratefully onto our permanent berth.
We have had a good few weeks sailing the Croatian islands, firstly with Cate & Steve and latterly with Sarah & Simon. The weather has been very mixed with cold northerly winds but we have sailed almost every day so far and that's probably a record for the Adriatic. We are back in Dubrovnik now for yet another crew change (Tim and Helen) and a final visit to the old town before setting sail again towards Lastovo (our favourite island in the southern islands) with Italy as our eventual destination. We have managed to explore Vis for the first time and revisited our islands we have enjoyed such as Mljet, Korcula, Sipan and Lastovo.
After two years in the water (apart from a quick hose down last year) Lyra came out of the Med for a three day anode replacement/antifoul check etc at ACI Dubrovnik. Apart from a broken bowthruster propeller blade everything was in good order and she is now back in the water awaiting the first sail of the season.
We've just signed a contract with Marina del Gargano to move Lyra to Puglia in May so we will be based in Manfredonia for a year and we are both looking forward to exploring the coast and interior of south eastern Italy.
We have a busy schedule lined up for the first half of the year. The boat is out of the water for a few days in early April and we will be swapping out anodes and doing a few other jobs and then in May we have three groups of friends joining us for Croatian and then Italian sailing. We have also bought a few new toys including an Australian-made mini air conditioning unit and a Red inflatable paddleboard for those windless days when we need some exercise.