The light breezes that accompanied 7 Roses from Venice to Brindisi gave
way to stormy winds. Lead colored sky and menacing clouds heavy with rain
swallowed the sun and the colors of our Mediterranean. With the trysail
reefed, we plow through a choppy sea. The channel of Otranto speaks its
difficult history, both ancient and modern, through the shouting winds.
The indefinite shadows of ships in the distance break the horizon into
pieces: "Venetian galleys with their holds loaded with spices and the
advantage of a southwestern wind return to their motherland, Templar
warships transport soldiers and pilgrims to the Holy Land. To the south,
the Genoese standard waves menacingly, but the ships are full of silk,
rugs and Damask fabrics. It is not time for battles and conquests; the
signs from the sky indicate, today as then, that the wrath of Neptune
is about to unleash itself."
The barometer on board had fallen rapidly and Stella's (our
four-legged official) unmistakable doubtful expression warns us that
the meteorological conditions are worsening. We are at the narrowest
point of the channel at Otranto, only forty nautical miles separate our
peninsula from Albania, forty miles that have always been a strategic
spot for traffic, battles and commerce. During our passage merchant
ships have replaced the old rowing ships and square sails. Ferries and
motorboats race along the few kilometers of sea that for some people
represent hope, the realization of a dream and the ephemeral illusion
of a journey towards freedom.
Through sustained crosswinds, 7 Roses slowly crosses the Gulf of Taranto
and we finally land at Crotone. Our daily averages were less than 50
miles of real progress and our morale has been affected by news heard on
the radio: a 19 meter caique and its crew of six, sailing from Greece
to Italy, have disappeared. We would find out in the following days
that wreckage and bodies were recovered 180 miles south of Cape Leuca.
The conditions of the sea in the lower Ionian have been above factor
8 for more than 10 days, which has rendered visibility low and rescue
operations more difficult.
While we are docked under cover at the Naval League, a 12-meter French
boat leaves the port. There are still storm advisories posted.
The crew and boat will be rescued by the coast guard 5 days later.
Sailing, plowing the seas and discovering the lands beyond are marvelous
experiences, ancient and unchanged by time. In this lifestyle, the
calendar and clock become two irreplaceable instruments for knowing the
seasons, calculating the tides, measuring the longitude and signaling
the passage of time during turns on watch. During a long voyage storms
cannot be avoided and unforeseen events lie in ambush, but the barometer
and meteorological maps are much more important in determining the date
of departure than is the calendar.
As we await nice weather, the Naval League of Crotone showers us with
a warm welcome, hospitality and friendship. The swarming group of
enthusiastic sailing kids, in the mirror of the sheltered bay water,
give off a youthful feeling of optimism. Some of them have already
participated in national regattas and are training for the next
championships. A gracious young girl with blue eyes prepares for the
European competitions under the proud, watchful eyes of her parents.
Among the chatter of the club and the thousand questions regarding the
sea, a small press conference is organized for 7 Roses here as well and
it is gratifying to hear the interest of those who attend. In this
city founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, love for the sea and
culture are alive. Within the winding streets of the ancient village
the wisdom of Pythagoras still roams. After his voyages in Egypt and
Babylon, he made Crotone his adopted home.
In the wake of the Greeks and our Venetian merchants, we cross the gulf
of Squillace and reach the coast of Calabria. The stop in Reggio was
suggested to us by our friends in Crotone and allows us two nights of
rest and the chance for another brief conference.
Scylla awaits us at the mouth of the Strait of Messina. The beautiful
nymph transformed into a horrible monster by Circe allows us to pass
undisturbed while Stella and Sultan distract her ferocious dogs who had
lured and devoured so many sailors in the past. The terrible creature
Charybdis, daughter of Gaea and Poseidon who was feared for her ability to
create whirlpools by swallowing the waters of the strait, also observes
us pass unbothered. Our route is now to the north. At Anzio the Naval
League waits for us, as well as three packages of precious publications
and nautical maps offered to us by our Military Marines and finally,
a pleasant surprise from IRIDIUM - a satellite telephone loaned to us
by Iridium Italia for our voyage.