Bumblebee and her crew; Dagmara, Nik, Julia and myself felt recharged after chilling out for a day in Roccella Ionica. We slipped our mooring at sparrows and gently motored into the early morning calm as the rest of the crew slept down below. The last leg of our journey to Sicily was an easy 45 nautical miles but we wanted to arrive with plenty of daylight to negotiate the mooring buoys at Taormina.
We never lost sight of land and it wasn’t long before Mount Etna loomed into the haze before us. We were greeted by a herd of Sicilian dolphins, a few cargo ships but a notable lack of sailing vessels. As we approached Sicily we could see the multi faceted coastline coming into clarity and could make out the hillside clusters of villages surrounding our destination. Taormina had been recommended by several people as a worthwhile stop so were optimistic about what we might find. We were advised to get in touch with George who manages the mooring buoys in the large bay but hoped we might manage on our own. We arrived to the north in the most spectacular small bay, surrounded by cliffs, palm trees and beautiful architecture. There was a cable car ascending up to the old town and even a guitar player perched on top of the cliff. We helped ourselves to the best buoy and got ready to tender ashore. Sadly our perfect spot was also the private mooring for a day tripper boat and we were quickly moved along and sent on our way out of the tiny bay. It was getting late so we resorted to calling up George and going in search of his buoys, ten minutes around the corner. Luckily he had space for us.
I hindsight it was a rubbish deal, we parted with 50 Euros for a mooring where we could easily have just anchored. We were 50m off the shore so obviously no water or electricity and a constant swell that kept us all awake that night. Luckily the town of Taormina is stunning and made it all worthwhile.
We left the next morning, zigzagging through the super yachts and observing where the wiser sailors had dropped anchor for the night. We plan to come back this way and will not make the same mistake again.
We sailed four hours south to Catania and found a space on the pontoon of the most sheltered yacht club in the main harbour. There were not many cruisers on the pontoon and most space was taken up by race kitted day sailors. The marina was probably the dirtiest so far with a permanent oil slick on the surface and rubbish floating everywhere.. not a great start. We disembarked and with some difficulty navigated our way across the main road and into Catania. At first glance the city was dirty and disappointing but after a few locals pointed us in the direction of the town centre we slowly discovered the finer side to this city. The Piazza Duomo is breathtaking, as is the Bellini Theatre and many more grand buildings scattered about. N&D treated us to a ride on one of the tourist road trains we had seen in several towns before. It turned out to be a an excellent way to see the city although the lack of suspension and evening light resulted in lots of blurry photos.
Nik and Dagmara were departing the next day so with their hire car we ticked off the no.1 Tripadvisor recommendation; Mount Etna. It took an hour of negotiating the winding roads to reach the unearthly landscape of the base station at 2800 metres. From here you can take a cable car and then a 4wd ride up to the summit. The only problem was they wanted us to part with 163 Euro each for the privilege! That wasn’t going to happen so we decided to hike it instead. Needless to say we didn’t get very far but we found a small crater and experienced the sensation of climbing an active volcano.
We said farewell to N&D and made our way back to Bumblebee, made ready then headed out to see in search of Syracuse. Unfortunately I failed to notice the 2 metre waves while checking the forecasts. As soon as we left the safety of the harbour we were being thrown all over the place. Heading for deeper water did nothing to calm the swell so we aborted the mission and headed back to safety to try again the next day in more settled conditions.