Egadi Islands and Marsala

Mor Toad / Moy Toad
David and Jocelyn Fawcett
Thu 1 Jun 2017 10:42
Our route over the past week looks a little bit like knitting and will become more so over the next few days as Tanya, Ian, Lola and Tom arrive in Palermo on a BA flight lunchtime today hopefully ( thank goodness they didn't try and come last weekend) and we shall be returning to the islands with them for 3 nights and then back to Trapani Sunday night as they fly home on Monday - a short visit but we are looking forward to seeing them and giving them the Moy Toad experience 🙂

After our friends left a week ago Tuesday we decided to go back to Levanzo island as we much prefer being at anchor as opposed to a marina especially one that is more like a boatyard and secondly we wanted to visit the Grotta del Genovese.

Here there are Upper Palaeolithic wall paintings and Neolithic incised drawings in a cave in the north west corner of the island. You have to go on a guided tour and we managed to arrange this in the village for the next day. We were told to turn up at 10.20 to leave at 10.30 on the boat but in true Italian style we eventually got the boat around 11.15 . There were two French ladies and several other Italians on the tour. The coast line is pretty rough and we knew from having sailed round the island the previous day there weren't many places to land below the cave but much to our surprise there was a little inlet with a crude stone jetty and we all managed to get off to walk up the rough path to the cave in the cliff above us. There were several seagulls not at all happy with our presence - I suggest we were close to their nests but having had a similar problem with Skuas in Iceland we just stuck our walking poles above our heads and this seemed to ward them off. The guide told us to wait whilst he went in and found a tiny generator which he plugged into the undergrowth! We were then given hard hats and told to leave everything on a table and no photos allowed. We then proceeded to crawl in through a very small gap and along a tunnel until the limestone cave opened out and we were able to stand upright. The guide fortunately spoke good English and showed us the various paintings some in ochre, others black ( charcoal and fat) of people, dolphins, Tuna, pig, bison , masks and weapons and also the incised drawings of horses and bison which were amazing as they gave you such a sense of their movement. The cave and its secrets were discovered in 1949 by a guy on holiday from Florence.

Definitely worth the visit and then we walked back over the island instead of getting the boat back as a) we needed the exercise and b) interesting to see what the middle of the island was like as opposed to just the coastline. Not a lot other than walls showing that there had been agriculture and ? Animals at some stage, lots of scrub and a few houses but a good walk as quite steep path getting back out of the cave up the hillside and then pretty undulating country.

After a couple of nights at anchor enjoying the peace , having a few swims in water that looks lovely but still isn't that warm and generally chilling we then headed back to Favignana as we needed to check with the guy there that there would be space for us on the pontoon this coming weekend with the family and there was a hill with a castle on top to be climbed. Yes space so hopefully that will work for us this weekend - tomorrow is a public holiday in Italy and its very obvious from all the work going on in the boatyard here in Trapani that June is the start of the sailing season out here.

Forte Santa Catarina stands out very prominently from all directions on the island and was built around 1400 to replace several Saracen towers and has had a lot of prisoners held there over the years and see a good few battles. Now very derelict and notices to say do not enter everywhere but after a good steep walk up a paved path which surprised us, plenty of lizards on the path and David saw a black snake 2-3 ft long slither across the path the views were superb - the whole of the island the other Egadi Islands, Marettimo ( where we first anchored after the crossing) , Levanzo and mainland Sicily. The coast of Africa is only 70miles away.

A very hot climb up but thankfully a breeze no one else around a quicker climb down and a well deserved ice cream - the square is full of Gelateria. Exercise and over 10,000 steps achieved. That evening we had a meal in one of the many fish restaurants in the square but actually too tired to really enjoy though the starter of thinly sliced Tuna and swordfish was very good as had been recommended to us by some other English In a boat anchored with us for a short period over in Levanzo.

After a couple of nights in Favignana we then decided we'd head SW to Marsala as we still had a couple of days. We went anti clockwise round the island to check out the anchorages on the south side of the island and discovered now that several bays have mooring buoys in them . We picked one up for a lunch stop and a swim (that we didn't have ) before heading back across in quite a stiff breeze to Marsala south of Trapani. We arrived in the harbour in Marsala not really knowing what to expect and where to go and couldn't raise anyone on the radio or telephone but eventually spotted a guy waving at us and pointing in one direction and then we spotted several people on the pontoon waving for us to go there. An interesting exercise reversing onto a pontoon In a wind David did very well I managed to throw the ropes ashore but it took a while to get the boat tied up partly the wind and partly their ropes were all in a tangle and we couldn't get tied up at the bow. Eventually managed but definitely a challenge. It turned out that the couple standing there as well as the marinera were The owners of 56' ft Oyster Piperita who I had previously been in touch with through the Oyster Owners Group. So that was lovely to meet them and they had only just returned to their boat. Later on we had drinks with them and went into Marsala for dinner and a walk through the old town of Marsala which was very much alive at 11.00pm and later.

Gone midnight by the time we went to bed and a very good nights sleep. The next day we walked again into the old town to explore and go to the archaeology museum. Both there and in Trapani the marinas seem to be at the opposite end to the old town so always a good walk and crossing the roads is definitely a case of keeping your fingers crossed that they will stop but at times you do wonder - quite stressful. After a wander and a coffee and croissant by Garibaldis gate ( he creeps up everywhere but apparently this was the original gate) and watching the world go past we then headed off to find the museum - looked pretty derelict, all roads on the map to it appeared closed off, the Carabinieri who seemed to be out in force couldn't help us even with google translate! So we just headed off round the coast road in hope. Well we found one large gate that had a scruffy notice saying 'chiuso' but no indication of when open so gave up headed back into town - the guide book wasn't clear either so that visit is for another time. We decided to go and find the supermarket near the marina for future reference in case we come back or ? Use the marina for storing the boat next winter as the Italians we'd met had been very happy with their boat storage . We also went to the Cantine Florio near the marina to book ourselves on a tour which we had been told that was very good. Indeed it was - although Marsala is not our tipple though we had tried some the previous night In a small cafe with our new Italian friends as David wanted to buy a bottle for his mother ( he had brought home a bottle of Marsala For her 56 years ago when he was On a school trip from Leeds to Sicily!! The guide was very good giving a good talk on the history of Marsala production over the ages from when it was started by an Englishman to now. It was followed by a very good and generous tasting of two wines white and red as well as 2 different fortified wines. Needless to say there was the shop at the end where we bought a bottle of the fortified wine and ordered several cases of the wine to be sent to the UK. Later on we invited the Italians for a drink on board to sample the Marsala we'd bought with blue cheese as re commended. Very good combination and a good starter and they liked too. We declined going for a meal with them as we really can't cope with the late eating that is obviously the custom over here.

So next day after saying goodbye exchanging contact details with Piperita we had a gentle sail back to the south side of Favignana where we found a bay to anchor in for another night before returning to Trapani. Good anchorage , good walk to explore that bit of the island and where we might take the family. A swim evening and morning, a very calm evening another good nights sleep and yesterday we motored back to Trapani boat services this time onto a pontoon as we had said we needed easier access for the family . Again more food shopping and cleaning of the boat followed by a good evening meal in the centre of the old town

As I finish this we have just heard they've landed at Palermo so better get on and prepare some lunch.

Next blog In a few days once they have left and before we set off to explore further north toward Palermo In our final week - weather and winds permitting.