July 11, 2017
We have decided to write nothing about the Aeolians for the various sailboat cruising web sites – just a blog post for our friends… They are just too lovely to share! That’s kind of a joke, of course, since there are sailboat chartering companies eagerly promoting visits to the islands, and fast ferries that bring people to and from Sicily and even Napoli – but, especially in June, they have the feeling of an “undiscovered” treasure. Quiet bays, beautiful clean water, small towns, with even smaller streets, friendly people and interesting geology, and a great museum of the long prehistory of the islands on a fortified bluff overlooking the town of Lipari.
We had little idea what to expect when we arrived in the Aeolians with Bill and Paty on June 4. We’d read about them, looked at them on Google Earth and some sailing sites, and the idea of “Aeolus, God of the Winds” was a little intimidating. But with the exception of a couple Mistral days, we found the winds to be downright easy-going. And with a little experience we learned which anchorages were good in which winds. There are also two pleasant and relatively inexpensive (in June) marinas that we used on very windy days, and sometimes just for fun.
We left the Aeolians yesterday to continue on in our extended circumnavigation of Sicily, but we’ll be back! The Azores and the Aeolians are both beautiful and unique places that we left still wanting more.
The Straits of Messina, between Sicily and the “toe of the boot,” are famous for Scylla and Charybdis, the monster and the whirlpool of the Odyssey – which Birgit points out was kind of a pilot-book for early Mediterranean sailors. Very strong currents (5 knots yesterday) flow between Italy and Sicily in the narrow Strait, and it’s easy to understand the fear instilled in ancient sailors with only square sails and oars. We found ourselves doing more than ten knots over the ground, pretty much at the point where we had to dodge between two large ferries crisscrossing the channel.
Some added drama was added by huge wildfires burning on both sides of the channel, fire-fighting planes buzzing overhead, as giant flames shot in the air just beyond the outskirts of the town of Messina.
We planned to dock the boat in the town of Reggio di Calabria, but in an – eventually – comic misunderstanding with the marina where we had made reservations by phone, we found out that we were in the wrong place, and that the marina was actually seven miles south of the town (and they didn’t know the latitude and longitude of the entrance). “Just look for they yellow buoy,” they said. But it all turned out well, and we ended up as the only sailboat in the tiny marina, docked alongside for the first time since Barcelona, just down from the espresso bar and next to a sort of salt-water kiddy pool. Actually very pleasant.
Tomorrow we’ll head out for Roccella Ionica, about 60 miles east of here, as our first step towards Albania, getting the boat out of the EU for a couple days (as required every 18 months).
Someone said that thing about pictures and words, so here we go: