Monday 15 September, Straits of Messina 38:18.422N 15:35.125E

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Mon 15 Sep 2014 08:46
We timed our departure from Tropea to arrive off Stromboli at dusk and all went to plan. We had dinner underway as we approached the lee of the island and threaded our way through the anchorage and the shallows off the northern end of the island. At this stage the volcano appeared as a faint orange glow in the darkness.

As we made our way around the northern and northwest of the island we were treated to a spectacular view of lava and red-hot rocks spewing down the side of the volcano, quite a sight. Despite our best efforts to take photos, it was difficult to capture and portray accurately from a boat bobbing in the swell. We were just half a mile off the island as we made our way down the West coast. A widespread lighting storm was visible in the distance and then, from being in the pitch black, a full moon made it’s appearance, we hardly knew which way to look. All in all, this part of the passage, was and is an unforgettable experience.

Leaving Stromboli we sailed down the island chain toward Lipari and the island of Vulcano, a magical night sail, until the wind died under the lee of Lipari.

We motored into an anchorage off the north west end of Vulcano Island in darkness at 03:00. Not my favourite occupation threading our way through the anchorage to find a spot to lay our anchor! On this occasion it was not helped by the topography of the bottom. One minute we were in 60m of water, the next in less than 10 m, then back to 60m+. We found our spot after one hour and several attempts! On our penultimate attempt, with all our chain out we couldn’t find any bottom at all! The situation was resolved by approaching the swimming buoys and anchoring in 3 m and 25 m off the shore. We moved again in the morning when a more reasonable spot was freed up by a departing Swiss yacht.

The atmosphere was very strange and a very strong sulphur smell was evident. Our silver cutlery gradually became very discoloured during our stay here, very bizarre!

We ventured ashore and Ann and Charlie sampled the delights of the mud baths (very overrated); Maggie declined but was official photographer! When we had finally succeeded in removing most of the mud, (an unattractive film of green remaining until we had lengthy hot soapy showers later in the day), we sensibly repaired to the pub!

A constant stream of fast boats, of every shape and size, arrives at Vulcano throughout the day, bringing tourists exclusively to see and/or experience the mud bath and some bravely, to walk to the top of the crater. It was in our minds to do the same, but in this heat, we decided it was just too much of a trek.

After a further day quietly at anchor we set sail for Sicily. It seems almost surreal to approach the island which will be the end of our travels this year! We crossed to Milazzo on Sunday. After failing to find an anchorage on the adjacent coast we gave in and took a berth in the Poseidon marina to the North of the town and below a large fort overlooking the bay. We walked around the town and found it (a) closed and (b) very run down and impoverished. However the upper parts of the old town were attractive and afforded some good views and pretty streets. As ever, we looked and eventually located a truly excellent ice cream shop and voila, everything became much more cheerful! The chef (Maggie) decided she wanted a day off and so, once the day had cooled, we ventured back along the sea front to a small restaurant for cocktails and the inevitable pizza, there was nothing else on offer, but a pleasant evening ashore for us nevertheless.

Today Monday 15, we transit the Messina straits. We are making our way along the north coast as we write this, before turning south to enter the VTS controlled traffic zone. Apparently the authorities are strict and even a boat of our size must report in to their control, even though we are not entering or crossing the traffic lanes. We shall stay close to the Sicilian coast all the way through.

The scenery of southern Italy was beautiful and remarkable and continues to surprise us. This northern coast of Sicily is surprisingly mountainous and very green, we are anticipating the mountains to continue as we head south. Many lone houses and small villages are scattered all the way along the coast, and as seen most of the way along the mainland coast, there are many very old villages and towns precariously perched on peaks and seemingly inaccessible, although we know now from our trips ashore, that narrow tracks and poor roads do provide access, even if the roads have succumbed to landslip along the way.

The more modern developments are mostly down toward sea level and comprise mostly of very unattractive concrete boxes, in a poor state of repair. There are only a few modern houses, the masses have no choice other than apartments. Once behind the seafront roads, and away from promenades, the streets are dirty and graffiti dominates many areas, a real blight wherever we have been.

The sea is the most remarkable colour of blue and crystal clear, and in shallower waters affording us clear views of the seabed.

As we approach the Straits of Messina, way off in the distance, behind us and through the heat haze, we can still, just about see the Aeolian Islands. Stromboli has all but vanished, but we can still make out the cloud effect it produces from its minor eruptions.

Time to report in the VTS.

Charlie & Maggie Bevis
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