After a couple of nights on anchor at Salina, Julia and I set off for tiny island of Filicudi. As we past the west coast of Salina we saw a few boats at anchor so went to investigate. We found Pollara, an impressive bay with strange rock formations, dramatic cliffs and excellent snorkelling.
We snagged the anchor on rocks as we tried to leave so I had to dive 6m down with a tripping line and secure it to the back of the anchor. Next time we will set the line to a fender before deploying the anchor amongst rocks.
There are lots of impressive yachts in this area but one really stood out. Somebody had converted a commercial tug boat into a private yacht. As we set sail again we sailed alongside Koo, an impressive 43m sloop, who eventually anchored beside us at Filicudi.
Unfortunately our anchor dragged a few times and, taking into consideration the onshore breeze, we opted to pay for the security of a mooring ball. Once ashore we climbed up the nearest hill and wound our way along thin passageways and up steps in search of the summit. The midday heat got the better of us and we were beaten back down to a hotel terrace overlooking the bay, where they served cold beer. This is where we bumped into Brendan and Adam. We took an instant liking to them and spent a very chilled afternoon chatting by the pool.
As fate would have it, they were heading west as well so we offered them a lift the next day. Alicudi is the next door island about 2 hours sail away. We found the conditions to be ideal and enjoyed a leisurely sail all the way there. Upon arrival we were forced to take a mooring buoy as there was no decent holding for the anchor. B&A kindly paid for the mooring and then treated us to lunch at the one and only hotel on the island.
After lunch we set sail for the mainland as we needed to pick up our new crewmember from Palermo in a couple of days. We were totally becalmed and had to resort to the motor for the six hour crossing to Cefalu. When we eventually arrived we took the pilot book's suggestion of anchoring just off the Old Town Harbour. Reassured to find a couple of other boats there, we settled down for a good night's sleep. This was not to be. By about 3am the swell had built up and Bumblebee was being thrown violently from side to side. Our back up plan was to shelter behind the breakwater of the new harbour but the sky was dark with clouds blocking the moonlight. It was too dangerous to move so we had no choice but to put in earplugs and ride it out.
After a sleepless night we weighed anchor at first light and motored into the new harbour. We joined a huddle of wiser sailors at anchor behind the breakwater and grabbed a couple of hours sleep.
Once awake, Julia set off by train to collect Krysia, our new crewmember, from Palermo airport while I headed into town with our laundry. We met up a couple of hours later by Cefalu Cathedral for a coffee before making our way back to the boat.
The tender has been taking on a lot of water recently and I discovered the floor section along one side was coming apart. As we set off from Cefalu for Palermo I pulled the join apart, cleaned the contacts with acetone and set about repairing it. Two things made the job very difficult; firstly, I had nowhere near enough glue for the job and secondly, as we left the harbour we were hit by 3 metre waves sending spray all over the dinghy and almost throwing me off the bow.
The sea state deteriorated even more and Krysia was overcome by severe seasickness. We were heading for Palermo where we hoped to meet up once again with Brendan and Adam, but instead pulled in to the commercial harbour at Termini. We had a break for lunch and Krysia decided to continue the journey by train. We made sure she knew where she was going; then Julia and I set out again for Palermo.
It was very fortunate that Krysia took the train because the onwards journey was plagued by large waves and 35 knots of wind in our face. What should have taken three hours took five as we ploughed through some pretty nasty conditions.
Just as Palermo loomed into sight it was blocked out by a huge dark cloud that swallowed us up and drenched us. We then ran the gauntlet between huge ferries as we passed through the traffic separation scheme. With our digital compass binoculars we were able to spot the single port or starboard lights indicating a vessel on the move. By taking regular bearings we could be sure if a ship would pass in front or behind. Eventually we arrived at Palermo, Marina Villa Igea. By 11pm we were sitting drinking cocktails in the bar of the lovely old Hotel Villa Igiea with Krysia, Brendan and Adam.
Krysia had brought out an EPIRB from England which I installed by the companionway. The EPIRB is a GPS enabled satellite distress beacon that can broadcast our location from anywhere in the world – an important piece of kit for the upcoming crossings.
Later that day we set off hiking to the top of Monte Pellegrino beside Palermo. It turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for; with the midday heat we were exhausted when we reached the top eight kilometres later! There were shouts of relief as we emerged from the steep trail to find a bar selling cold beer and decent pizza. We decided to take the bus back down to the centre of Palermo.