Winter has always been a time for reflection. Personally, I became more introverted this year. This was my first winter aboard Otoka, I didn’t quite know what to expect. After the bustle of moving constantly all summer, we welcomed the change of pace that came with tying up in a winter harbour. Marina Di Ragusa (or MdR for short) has become our Sicilian home away from home, by the time we set sail again in April we will have been there 7 months. Days here are busy but also relaxed. Most days there is no need for an alarm, waking up gently and enjoying a coffee before starting whatever project is on the plan for the day. Activities range from boat projects to household upkeep, exercise in the form of yoga, walking or beach volleyball, day trips, long trips. Nick’s boat chore list is endless but supply runs for parts are usually well-attended trips to the local parts store, thus combining fun and work. Same goes for my laundry and shopping, both usually involve friends and coffee and if it is after 11 Prosecco, because “why not”.

Weekdays the kids have some homework before being dismissed to run the pontoons with the herd of other “pontoon savages”. When they tire of that they use their bikes to venture down the long promenade, to a “secret garden”, a wild beach, or favourite tree climbing spot. The kids on the dock are from all over the world and range from very young to teenagers. They all mix up and get along really well, and the relationships that they have built are supporting their confidence, independence and ingenuity.

Some days we adventure out to local points of interest, soaking up the scenery and the history of the rich culture that we find ourselves immersed into. Places like Agrigento- Valley of the Temples, Modica- Chocolate festival, old towns of Ragusa, Syracuse, and others. Some adventures are more about people such as Italian language lessons, cooking lessons or olive picking. Some adventures are bucket list items that we were determined to fit in while on the content of Europe; London, Cornwall, Venice, Como, Rome. Future posts about those.

The evenings tend to be more social. Tuesdays and Fridays are happy “hours” turned pub crawl. Typically very well attended and enthusiastic. Here sailors tell their best stories and share knowledge some hard-won and some from previous land-based lives. It is here that I have met some of the most incredible people from all walks of life. Never have I been in a room so full of leaders, doers, and dreamers, it is inspiring and never dull. Other nights we attend karaoke, have dinners on each other boats, play the addictive and highly competitive game of “Brandy Dog”, or curl up with the family for movie night.

Living so close to each other has provided a strong and vibrant community. Most would balk at living with barely a foot of air and two hulls of fibreglass between dwellings but there is no reason for the space to be greater. My husband joked once while visiting another boat 3 over from us, that it was closer by distance, for him to go grab something from our boat than it would have been within our house back home. Borrowing a tool or asking for help from a friend couldn’t be more simple, the only hurdle is the friendly conversation that will certainly occur. Currency for favours is based on what goes around comes around, so pay it forward.

Spring weather has arrived, the almond trees are starting to blossom, the fields are turning lush shades of fresh green, and the temperatures have again warmed to what feels like summer back home, it is only March. Normally, schedule-less sailors are scurrying around with long lists of boat chores to complete before the approaching deadline of the start of cruising season. Conversations have shifted from where we have been to where we are going. Looking forward and getting excited for the next set of experiences and new challenges.

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