Captains Blog 25 – Stink Bombs and Storm Bound

Before heading away from Trapani, we were treated to a meal out with Karin and Erling to celebrate the first mate’s 21st!!! We had a great night at a fish restaurant across from the marina with a cracking view of a beautiful sunset. Happy birthday first mate, you’ll be working twice as hard tomorrow to catch up.

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, was our next big destination and after a couple of stops we moored up at Si Ti Mar, as close to the city centre as you could get without having big wheels or caterpillar tracks strapped to the hull.

The city was a brilliant contrast of fabulous buildings, square’s, churches and sculptures against the gritty backstreets full of markets trader, locals, tourists, mopeds and refuse. Yes, even the mopeds and refuse didn’t detract from the appeal of the city. It is just how you’d imagine it would be. There’s even a mafia museum!

There was however one drawback to this fantastic mooring. Every night, without exception, at around 11, the open-air nightclub located no more than 200 metres away would open. I don’t mind a bit of thuddy dance music but when I’m stone cold sober and trying to get some kip, the appeal starts to fade. The heat was blistering and all hatches and windows were open for ventilation so you were in for the duration, till either 2:30 or 3:00am.

After 4 nights it was time to move on and get some sleep so our next destination was Cefalu, a popular holiday destination. After battling into strong head winds, again! We anchored to the west of the old town and although blowy, had a fairly good night.

Next day we took the mighty Hannibal ashore and explored the old town before heading up to the old hill fort which gave great views across the bay. Gianti sat completely isolated, being the only boat anchored in the bay and as the skies started to yellow and darken the race to get back before the storm hit was on. Thunder and lightning rumbled all around as we dodged the rain to get back home.

We spent the following few days on the opposite side of the headland in another small harbour anchored just outside the marina. Each day was beautiful and sunny and as each day wore on the skies would darken and the next big storm would break with spectacular flashes of lightning as darkness fell.

We enjoyed our slightly prolonged stay in Cefelu and discovered ice cream served in brioche buns, Cannoli, Rum Barbar’s (one for my Dad!) and the only place I’ve ever had bad Chinese food.

Friday offered the perfect conditions to move on. We motored/sailed (a bit) to Sant’ Agata di Militello. It’s a brand-new marina still under construction so we headed into this enclosed bay with perfectly still water until being moved on and hour later by the coast guard. We moved just outside the marina boundary and it was clear why we’d been moved the next morning when construction work was in full flow.

After one night it was time to head to the Aeolian Islands, a group of 7 islands, 35 miles off the coast of Sicily. They are made up of the peaks of volcanos and we were heading to Vulcano, which although not erupting, still emits clouds of sulphurous gas.

We anchored in a bay on the north east of Vulcano at Porto di Levante. Every now and again the stink of rotten eggs would waft past, reminding us that there was still volcanic activity here. The sea was the temperature of a warm bath and the first mate took full advantage, as it was the closest thing to a real bath she’d had in some time. (The rotten egg smell masked the stench).

The summit of the volcano was surprisingly easy to reach, with fantastic views towards Lipari and a great circular walk around the crater, where sulphur deposits and escaping gases could be clearly seen.

We relocated to Lipari, the largest island of the group where we’d arranged to meet up with Ken and Pam, who we’d last seen on Sardinia. The main town has a couple of small marinas and we’d booked into one of a group that lie open to the east and where Ken and Pam were already moored.

After a good old catch up and a great night out we awoke to be told that we were leaving. “No no” I responded to the boss, “were planning to stay a few more of nights yet!” “No, you must be ready to go” he replied in his best English. I couldn’t get my head around what was going on so the first mate set off for the office and discovered that the forecast was for some big swell coming from the east, potentially damaging both vessels and moorings.

We all relocated to a marina offering slightly more protection. Things were tight. Very tight! As I reversed into a seemingly impossible space, the marinaro’s pushed the bow of the boat with their dinghy to try and help me in. The problem was that they forced me too far across causing the anchor of a moored vessel to scratch the aluminium toe rail of Gianti. It was by far the tightest mooring to date.

The marina had water, but not drinking water and we needed to fill our water tanks. Ken saved the day by offering us a tank fill from the water maker on Lady Pamela. Much hose was laid along the pontoon to one of Gianti’s water tanks and before long we were sorted!

Lipari was small and compact. A great place to spend a few days before moving on, but not before we’d placed our wine order at the local wine merchants. The first mate had been chatting to Ken, who’d told her that he’d brought a few cases of wine at a good price. We knew it was good, we’d been helping him quaff it over the past few days.

“How much does it cost?” enquired the first mate. “Well it worked out about €50. The merchant threw in the 6th bottle of each case for free” replied Ken. “Oh, that’s not bad, maybe we should get a case at that price.” “Ah” Ken responded “that was €50 a bottle, not a case.” “Oh bugger that, maybe we won’t be getting a case.”  We did pick up a nice case of very drinkable cheaper stuff before we left though!

We planned to head to the next Island Panarea and from there to Stromboli. We told our friends of our plan and they thought it was a good way to finish their time in Sicily so we all headed to a nice anchorage on the S/E of Panarea where we’d chill for a few hours before heading out to the volcano at Stromboli on Lady Pamela.

Now then, if you’ve never sat at the back of a beautiful motor yacht, eating barbequed steak and drinking expensive wine while watching a volcano erupt, you ain’t lived!! It was a great and surreal way to spend an evening. We all had a great time.

Next morning Ken and Pam set off for Corfu. Their boat was quickly replaced by a large catamaran, crewed by about 10 blokes. More accurately, 10 naked blokes!! We’ve seen a lot of naked folk over the summer so nothing surprises us, but inside I was seething! Why is life so unkind? Why oh why couldn’t it have been crewed by gorgeous naked women instead? I suppose the first mate was happy.

Panerea was a lovely little island that used golf buggies as transport rather than cars. It didn’t take us long to walk into the centre, which was swamped with boat trippers. It didn’t detract from its appeal and the excitement of stumbling into the first Christmas shop, beautifully decorated, we’ve seen this year.

Time was pressing and we’d arranged to meet friends in Corfu, so off we set the next day to Reggio di Calabria on the Italian mainland. The sailing was fab as we approached the top of the Messina Straits, that notorious stretch of water that separates Italy and Sicily. We’d planned to use the currents in the straits to our advantage and were chuffed that we arrived just as the tide turned in our favour. There are very strong currents and, even whirlpools through the straits and we were carried through the top at 7.6 knots, when normally we’d just mange 4.5, so I was pleased at our passage planning.

We fuelled up as we came into the marina, before heading into our berth. It was the tightest spot to refuel especially with strong winds, but we filled her up safely.

Reggio di Calabria was a nicer place than I’d imagined it might be and we had a good look around on the Sunday morning, along with a nun who seemed to be sightseeing, just like us. Now, those who know me know that I’m not a religious man, but I couldn’t help wonder how a nun got away with not being at prayer on a Sunday morning. In Italy, near the Popes gaff!!

On our second night we were joined by Karin and Erling. It would be the last time we would see them for a while as they would be heading to Ragusa, their winter home, after we left the following day. We enjoyed our last night out and said a fond farewell the following day. We would be heading to Greece, at 12:00, or maybe a bit later!

Next time, more storms, good friends and Greek islands. …. bit of a longer video this time, so have a cuppa, or a gin, along with a biscuit (why not? it’s nippy out there. You treat yourself, you deserve it). We had such a blast on the Italian islands we didn’t want to leave any of it out.

Ta Ta

Captain Mac


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