Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily
We spent two days and nights in Cagliari, during which time we got to know it quite well. There is a smart colonnaded street along the harbour, Via Roma, behind which the town climbs to a Citadel on top of a hill. The walled city, known as the Castello, was built by the Pisans, who controlled the city, in the mid 1200’s, and they were succeeded by the Spanish Aragonese in 1297. The Spanish dominion lasted for the next 400 years. Only important Spanish officials were allowed to live in the Castello. At dusk a bell was rung, and all Sards had to leave the city. Now it is shabby but atmospheric. When the front door of one of the houses opens you see a grand entrance hall with a wide, winding staircase and a courtyard with a fountain at its centre.
Our son Rory joined us on Friday. We had a drink in a bar on the ramparts overlooking the Mediterranean, then dinner in the Ristorante Italia on Via Sardegna, a very good one where Ian had lunched with the Honorary Consul to Sardinia, Andrew Graham, earlier in the day. The restaurant is decorated in an elegant, rustic style, with antique farming implements from the Sardinian countryside decorating the walls. Sardinian food is delicious, like Italian, but spicier, flavoured with saffron and chillies.
After a night at anchor on the far east of the island, we set off at first light for the passage to Sicily. The sea was flat and calm, like sapphire-coloured glass. We saw dozens of turtles, large and small, lime green jellyfish the size of dinner plates, and a whale. Rory said it was like being on safari. We were close enough to the turtles to see their gorgeous tortoiseshell backs, and some of the larger ones had birds perching on them, and we were close enough to the whale to identify it as a sperm whale and saw it’s trefoil shaped tail as it dived into the water. There was a fabulous sunset, the sky and sea turning first pink, and then purple and after everything went dark, at about 10.30 pm, we saw the lights of a large ship coming up behind us, and identified her as our old friend, QE2. As she passed us three miles away on our port beam, Ian called her on the ship’s radio and the following conversation took place:
“Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Elizabeth 2, this is Vasco da Gama, Vasco da Gama, over.”
“Vasco da Gama this is Queen Elizabeth 2, channel 6 please”
“Channel 6. Queen Elizabeth 2 this is Vasco da Gama. We are the sailing yacht three miles on your starboard beam. We just wanted to say what a privilege it is to be sailing alongside you on such a dark and starry night, over.”
“Vasco da Gama, thanks for that. It’s always nice for us to hear a friendly voice. Where are you heading, over?”
“We are overnight from Sardinia to Sicily. Last time we saw you was on our way down through Biscay in horrible weather in the middle of June. We thought you were coming out of Bilbao. We had read that you were starting a new career in Dubai, but here you are, so what are your plans, over?”
“We are completing our summer programme here in the Mediterranean, then heading for Dubai in November. Right now we are heading for Piraeus, and the Straits of Messina for early morning. And you, after Sicily, over?”
“We are for India, but slowly. Maybe next time we will see you will be in Dubai, over.”
“Well I hope we will see you again. I sailed around here myself in the 80’s, a great cruising ground, over”
“Well thanks for that, and best wishes to you from the three souls on board Vasco da Gama, out from us.”
“And we have 2800 souls on board and ‘fair winds’ to you from all of us on QE2. Out.”
And with that the two ships in the night passed and plied their separate ways.
We arrived in Sicily at 4 pm on Monday. So far the island has surpassed all our expectations. Rory went back to London last night. The next report will be from Palermo.