On the way out of the marina the next morning I filled the diesel tank again. I had motored 36 hours since Ithaca and used 74 litres and was very happy with just over 2 litres per hour.
The anchorage at Taormina was only an hour away and was perfect in every way. Perfect depth, hold and with a gorgeous village up there on the rock above the bay. Shortly after arrival I was greeted by a Norwegian man in a dinghy that came over from the neighbouring Swan 46. He introduced himself as Guttorm Guttormsen. As if he was a character in Lord of the Rings. Guttorm invited me over to his boat where his girlfriend Cathy was waiting.
Guttorm was a 64-year-old retired police officer that had spent the majority of his career as a bodyguard for the Norwegian royal family. He had retired at 57 and pretty much spent his retirement sailing. Cathy was 55 and worked at The Arendal City Hospital but had taken a sabbatical year to sail the boat from Arendal on the Norwegian south coast to Venice. Cathy’s year had almost come to end, and she was going to fly home within a week but Guttorm was going to sail the boat to Venice where it would be left for the winter with its previous owner. The plan was then to sail it back in 2020.
The Swan 46 was built in the early 90’s but it was in mint condition. A really nice boat. Guttorm told me that this was his second Swan as he used to have a Swan 44 from the 80’s called Kolibri. He sailed Kolibri with three friends via Madeira, Cape Verde, and Brazil to the West Indies. Coming back from the West Indies they ended up in a hurricane outside the Azores. A freak whether incident where two storms ‘collided’ and the windspeed escalated to over 80 knots sustained. They were four crew onboard and after having capsized and performed three 360-degree summersaults, Guttorm decided to contact the Search and Rescue station in Norway using his satellite phone. They in turn contacted their counterparts in Portugal. Guttorm was told that they were 385 Nm from the closest helicopter pad at the island of Horta in the Azores and their maximum range was 400 Nm. Meaning that if they wanted to be picked up, he would have to say goodbye to Kolibri. Guttorm decided that three 360-degree summersaults was enough and they were winched up to a hovering helicopter in hurricane conditions. There is a fantastic video online where the rescue team have recorded the whole operation. The boat was left afloat in the middle of the Atlantic and was spotted at least three times during the following six months. Photographs posted of these later encounters showed that people had been on board and taken things off the boat. The last known picture was taken over 1000 Nm from the place where they left the boat and by then the mast was missing. The newspapers called it the ‘Ghost Ship’.
I spent a couple of days with Guttorm and Cathy where we visited a beautiful but crowded Taormina and met a really nice elderly couple from Monaco. We were all invited for champagne and wine in the cockpit of their beautiful CNB 60 that they were sailing together with two guys in their thirties as crew. As I talked sailing experiences and plans with similar minded people, I realised that I was getting more confident in that this is the life I want. And that solo sailing does not mean that you are lonely.