My guide book informed me that Reggio di Cabrili is a Cosa Nostra (read Mafia) hot bed and recruiting ground. This little fact was foremost in my mind when the kids and I were walking near the port and a car pulled in front of us, effectively blocking our path. The driver jumped out and in limited English asked if we were sailors. Odd.
I replied in the affirmative and engaged in a of bit of travelling banter. I kept trying to say ciao, and move on but he kept up the conversation in Italian. After a while, he said “Do you like wine”?
“Sure” I said.
He opened the trunk of his car, which, was full of wine. “Take some” he said.
“No, no, its fine, I have plenty already” I replied.
“No, please take some” he insisted. I reluctantly took a bottle. “More” he said, “Take more”. He then thrust a second in my hand. “Ok, good” he said. I started to walk off and as I did I was waiting for some surreal Goodfellas Scene to unfold, but it didn’t. As he drove slowly past us he just smiled and said “do you like croissants?” I nodded. Odd.
As I sat in the cockpit of Vega that night, with him watching me from across the road through his car window, I was sure I was the target of some mafia big wig. Maybe I looked like someone…maybe he wanted to recruit the kids. Heather assured me all was well and he was just a friendly local, but I didn’t sleep well that night.
At 7 am, there was a loud thump from the cockpit. I assumed it to be the boot of a hit man and sent Ben up to talk him to death. He returned clutching a large bag and said “ Dad, look, the crazy dude left us croissants” . These were not just your run of the mill croissants, but ones full of chocolate, some full of crème. Really nice. I sent Ben back up – had any other yachts got croissants? “Er. No Dad, just us. This is a bit weird isn’t it”. Milly and Heather scoffed the Croissants.
Now I was sweating. Super friendly guy or Mafia boss, we weren’t hanging around to find out and as I was about to high tail it back into the straits to take my chances with Scylla and Charybdis when Heather calmed me down. Later that morning he reappeared, Heather made best friends with him, he took her shopping, gave her a beer, showed her around his beach house….turned out he was just a super friendly local fella who likes looking after yachties. But you can’t be too careful…!
After giving the Mafia the swerve, we had a cracking 5 hour sail to Taormina on the east coast of Sicily. 20 knots just behind the starboard beam pushed us along at a little over 7 knots, it was great sailing. We found a nice calm anchorage, right under Mt Etna, which was spectacular and met up with our friends on Calyxa. Taormina is one of those great little tourist towns on a cliff top terrace looking over the Ionion sea. It has a well preserved medieval core and the Teatro Greko – the most dramatically located Greek theatre in the world…apparently. It was pretty special, but the kids were not happy at being dragged to “yet another pile of rocks” you got to love em 🙂
Having done the tourist thing, we spent a few days fishing and swimming in the sea. It was a very chilled time. We waited 4 days for a suitable weather window to hopefully allow us to sail to Greece, but it never came so, we resigned ourselves to motoring most of the way and headed off.