Posted by Johnny
The Messina Strait turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax. All our research lead us to believe that if we weren't swallowed up by Charybdis then Scilla was sure to get us. Odysseus barely scraped through but we couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Granted it wasn't a spring tide and we used the calculation (4.5 hrs after high water Gibraltar) to ensue we had two knots of tide helping us along. As you can see in the pic above we were all on high alert.
There was very little traffic passing the Strait but we were excited to see a couple of swordfish boats. These odd vessels hold their skipper fifteen metres up where he has control of the steering. Out in front there is a platform from which another crew member harpoons swordfish as they rest during their annual migration. Apparently it is not unusual for one of these boats to harvest twenty swordfish in a day with this rather unsporting approach.
Our crew at the moment included Ania, Ola, Peter, Julia and myself. We headed out of the Strait and made way for the Aeolian Islands. Vulcano was our first port of call which we made in about four hours. The anchor went down with six metres depth at the stern and fifteen at the bow, this was totally new topography for us! We took the dinghy ashore and discovered the island to be touristy and quite tacky. There was some kind of football match on so the whole island seemed preoccupied. we explored for a bit before joining them.
Vulcano is particularly popular for it's bubbling sulphur springs. People flock to the island to benefit from the healing properties of caking yourself in stinking mud. The rotten egg smell permeates the entire island and stays with you for days. We skipped the mud bath and headed strait for the warm bubbling beach.
It was still early in the day so we found ourselves a Fiat Panda and headed inland. The island is tiny and we hit the far end in 20 minutes. We dropped down to the sea and up to the highest vantage point before nestling into a recommended restaurant for the local tasting menu.
The West side of the island is a bit more wild and only really accessible by boat. Luckily we had one so we navigated around to a secluded spot and dropped the anchor in 13 metres of crystal clear water. We swam amongst a few small jellyfish while being observed by some curious goats.
That evening we docked in Lipari and our guests treated Bumblebee to a night on one of the pontoon 'yacht clubs'. Lipari is the next Island along from Vulcano, is capital of the Aeolian Islands and has a totally different character. There is a long bustling high street with way too many tour operator outlets while around the coast there is a stunning wide anchorage complete with resident icecream boat, Sadly the time had come for Ania to head back home so we waved her off as a hydrofoil ferry whisked her back to the mainland.
The next day we moved on to the island of Salina, where we anchored just outside the small town of Santa Marina. This island also has it's own rather chic character with tasteful shops, nice restaurants and prices to match. We enquired at the marina to find a berth for the night would set us back 100 Euro until the 15th when the price shoots up to 170 Euro! Luckily we were happy on the anchor but it could be a different story if some weather came in..
Milazzo, on the mainland was our next port of call. Here we said a sad goodbye to Peter and Ola as we perched on the outer pontoon of the Poseidon Marina. It only took a couple of passing ferries to realise this was no place to park Bumblebee. The swell rocked her to the point I thought the cleats would tear right out. We untied asap and headed to the shelter of Nettuno Marina, tucked inside the commercial harbour walls. Our plan was to refuel, restock and do a bit of laundry in preparation for our next guests.
After weeks of fine weather the pressure suddenly dropped. Large areas of low pressure appeared out to sea, driving 4m waves and F6 wind towards us. Sailing would be very uncomfortable so we prepared for a few days land-bound. The good news was we were in the most protected marina possible, the bad news was it would set us back 88 Euros and night.
Our new guests this week are Julia's mum and her friend Eva. Needless to say this will be a slightly different week to the ones previous. Having sent off the laundry and cleaned & waxed the boat our new guests arrived the same day Peter and Ola left.
Luckily on mainland Sicily there is lots to see. We began by exploring our surrounding town of Melazzo. The trip began to take on a slightly more sophisticated slant that saw us inspecting church murals and drinking decent wine.
On day two of being landlocked we hired a car and headed West. Palermo was the destination but we were distracted by a hilltop town as we approached Cefalu. After quite a few twisting turns and steep inclines we arrived at the town of Pollina. The wind at the top must have been blowing at 50 knots, looking down to the sea there were white caped waves as far as the eye could see. We were very grateful to be on dry land.
Pollina is made up of tight winding streets and small houses that cascade down the side of the hill. At the top there is a castle and observatory where in 1550, the astronomer Maurolico first sighted a supernova. The streets are very angular with peculiar perspective and lend themselves well to line drawings.
Back down at sea level we explored the town of Cefalu. A much more touristic affair with all the usual tat for sale. The waves were crashing onto the breakwater and people (Julia included) were having a great time dodging the spray.
We ended our one day road trip with a visit to Castroreale, another hilltop town with a rich history. It is a tiny town but boats over 80 churches, some dating back to the 13th century. As the sun set the surrounding land was bathed in a glowing haze thanks to a bushfire rapidly burning up the hillside.