Trapani

Our last port in our whistle stop tour of Sicily was Trapani. It’s funny how the towns we’re never expecting always seem to surprise us more than the ‘must visit’ centres that get pushed.

Was yet another frustrating day of motoring down the coast and then, a few miles out, having the wind kick up to 18 knots making docking tricky. We seem to have these days more and more, to the point of us almost expecting it now. Oh well we got there safe and sound and that’s what counts when you’re facing skies like this..

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A marinaro came rushing out to greet us which was lucky as the pilots and charts didn’t show a good layout of the marinas here. It was quite confusing coming in so we were glad of a friendly “You follow!”.

One thing you have to watch for is while the Marinaros help is wonderful you need to remember that it’s your boat and safety on the line and they are looking for sales at the end of the day. Coming in we always ask about the depth. We give our draft and normally get told we’ll be fine. I then back this up on the chart and sounder to hopefully avoid grounding. This guy didn’t exactly fill us with confidence as he kept asked the same question over and over. “2m? You sure 2m? 2m should be fine. Follow me!”

“should”?!

I couldn’t even check the charts as the marina didn’t show on there so we went in very blind.

The depth went lower and lower until we were reading 0.0m. Ugh. Luckily I calibrated the depth sounder with a 0.25m get out of jail free amount and we quickly saw 0.2m then 0.3m back on the display.

It must have got pretty close though.

Once in, we washed off the incessant red dust that’s been blowing up from Africa for the last few days. It gets everywhere but we try to keep Interlude looking the best we can. We were treated to another lovely sunset which was stark contrast to the stormy skies we’d seen a few hours before.

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The marina staff were really friendly and suggested some places to eat and get supplies. As we were planning on crossing back to Sardinia the morning after these tips were welcomed and mean’t we could cut down on the wondering aspect that any new place brings and left provisioning until the next morning to stock back up with essentials. Was nice to head into town for a wander around.

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What a lovely town! Very clean and modern. Good shopping and happy people frequenting the many bars and restaurants. Although it’s a tale of two cities for sure. The centre is picture perfect..

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But dropping a few streets away from the main routes in and out of town, the reality hits as buildings become more ruined and rubbish again builds up. I guess it’s the same everywhere to some extent, it’s good to see all aspects and not just the few streets the tourists seem to limit themselves to. We saw so many families living in small single rooms enjoying the night, eating, drinking, playing board games and cards together. All their doors open and enjoying each others’ company on the street outside their modest homes. We grabbed a bite after wondering aimlessly about for a few hours (our favourite way to explore).

Trapani also seems to be where all the high-end designer shops have been hiding and while we would of course blown a load of cash on Gucci we had to get back to the boat to rest up for the 170 mile crossing the day after. We were torn though. I mean come on.. who wouldn’t want to sail wearing these threads?

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Another small place where we could have stayed longer but we took in what we could during our brief stay.

Castellmmarre de Golfo

We set off to Castellmmarre de Golfo with fair winds and bright sunshine. It had been recommended to us by a lovely couple back in Vebo Velentia so we were looking forward to it.

It was a smooth sail down the coast with beautiful scenery…

Castellmmare De Golfo4…that is until we were in sight of our destination. Then the clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up… to 25 knots!

We decided (or at least the wind decided for us) that it was time to practice some of our bad weather procedures. So after a few scant words we turned down wind and both the boat and us felt instantly less pressured. Less pressure on the sails and rigging. Less of that whistling wind sound you hear in a horror movie. Then we gently rolled away the jib sheet and turned back on course, to the sound of the whistling but a little more comfortable. It’s always nice though when you go from stark-raving mad crazy to just plain crazy. Definitely blew away a few cobwebs.

The wind continued as we made our way towards harbour. We were heading towards a mountain, below which is nestled the marina. At one point the wind seemed to be hitting us from either side down the two valleys. The seas were also growing, confused and a tad bitey.

The wind didn’t get much better as we neared the harbour entrance and we were getting a little worried as:

  1. there were a fair few rocks in the harbour, and
  2. we hadn’t booked and we didn’t want to be turned away.

Ever hopeful we got prepared anyway with lines and fenders. Then just as we rounded the corner at the harbour entrance we saw our knight in shining harbour – a little man in a dinghy touting for business. He directed us around the rocks and into the calmer waters of the marina beyond. He gave our nose a bit of a shove to get us turned and then jumped onto the dock to grab our lines. Awesome! Safe and sound once more.

We were at the end of a row of pontoons which meant a little walk up a gravel road to get into town which doesn’t really bother us, but there were other mini marinas closer in if you prefer that. Actually we were pleased for the peace and quiet.

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The town was very, very picturesque  with little bridges and archways through which you could catch the scenery beyond.

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The ideal place for a little getaway. Fresh fruit and veggie markets but not really anything else in terms of shopping. Some nice restaurants. Good panini place that sold ice-cream in bread rolls (we didn’t partake) and had good wifi (we updated our apps, checked the weather, the usual). And that’s about it.

We ended up stopping an extra day. We’d been a bit put off by the wind and both the marinaro and the weather app we use (WindFinder) told us to expect more big winds. The delay was a little frustrating in the end though because it appeared to be calm at sea from where we stood – you just never know. Ahh well there’s always tomorrow.

Palerno

After a good nights sleep at anchor we woke early to witness the town in silhouette and headed down the coast towards Palerno past some great scenery.

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The pilot described the town as ‘dirty and grimy, but full of life’. Sounded like our kind of place, so we were looking forward to it.

After heading into the dock you get jumped on by marina owners all scrambling for your custom. We went with one of the outer marinas as we hoped it would be a bit cheaper and we don’t mind a good walk. They all looked much of a muchness so we docked up, did the usual cleaning of boat (and us) and headed into town.

Grimy doesn’t do this place justice. It’s a craphole. But a very friendly, good energy, real life craphole. The architecture is stunning, but it’s also sad to see something like this…

Palerno3Then spin on the spot 90 degrees and see this in the same piazza..

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We’ve seen more rubbish like this in Italy than any other country. Just seems to be the way of things here. No one seems to mind the fact there’s rubbish everywhere hiding the beauty beneath.

We wandered around over the next few days trying to experience everything this place has to offer. It’s very industrial with amazing restaurants mixed in. It’s dirty, but we found little places where locals hung out and drank cold beers on the streets to escape the heat.

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It’s one of the friendliest places we’ve been in Italy, everyone was helpful including the amazing marina office staff who got our Volvo service all booked in.

Talking of which. We’re really hammering the engine of late. We were always told that the med is either too much wind (check, we’ve had that of late!) or not enough (yep, seen plenty of that as well).

We had a good first half to the season but since the end of August the weather has been all over the place and shows no sign of improving as autumn draws closer. Keeping the engine hours low is obviously a good thing to do but if you’re moving along at two knots backwards there’s not a lot you can do but strike up the iron sail once more and increase your carbon footprint doing so.

Our Volvo service guy was a total laugh though. I learnt a lot about replacing all the filters, how the engine worked, etc, despite neither of us speaking each others language. From the second he hopped on board I was helping him with oil changes or handing him tools, he made sure of that! Somehow I understood pretty much what he was on about as well which was cool. He did tell us off for the high engine hours though saying. “Humm, high. High.”. When I explained that we’d come all the way from Northern Germany I think he was a little more understanding but it’s something to keep in the back of our minds and sail whenever possible.

Vulcano to Ceflau

We set off from Vulcano at daybreak to make the 52NM crossing back to Sicily and the town of Ceflau where we hoped to anchor.

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We took in the last weird and wonderful sights of Vulcano and Lipari as we headed between these islands and smelt the occasional puff of sulphur – nice.  The landscape was pretty cool as we passed some more of the Aeolean Islands which continued to puff smoke into the blue skies.

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We set a course out to sea in the direction of Sicily once more.

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Yesterday would have been perfect weather for this trip with great beamy winds but today it was as flat as a pancake the whole day. We passed a cargo ship. And then nothing for hours. Occasionally we saw another boat and watched it from the horizon where it appeared until it disappeared on the opposite horizon.

We also saw a flock of geese heading South. Got us thinking about the end of summer and heading south ourselves. The weather has changed a little recently with cooler mornings, although there’s also some great sun-baking still to be had during the day.

It was so still and not much happening so we just passed the time like you usually would on a Sunday at home. A few exercises in the morning, breakfast, some podcasts, lunch and lots of snoozes.

Watching the miles tick away is a bit like watching the hours pass away on a Friday afternoon at work. Time just stands still. “Hasn’t it been on 30.6 NM to go, for the last hour at least?” You have to occupy yourself or you would go crazy.

We got the cleaning cloths out. I polished the chrome while Simon waxed the gel coat. We couldn’t stand to see Interlude so bedraggled any more as these jobs were well overdue. The job is not even finished, the heat eventually got to us, but the bits we did look great so now there’s a huge incentive to get it all done. I guess you could only have done this with flat seas.

Finally, finally, finally the town of Ceflau came into view. The marina is charge band 5 (pretty high) so we wanted to avoid that cost if we could. The pilot said that there is an anchorage in the old harbour around the corner but you have to keep 300m off the coast and there’s a hefty 100 Euro fine if you do not obey.

We watched as another couple of boats headed to the anchorage so decided to give it a go. One boat was much closer than the 300m but the other boat stayed further out so we decided to follow suit.

As we approached the anchorage suddenly the wind kicked up to 10 knots. We hadn’t seen anything above 5 knots all day and now we wanted to settle, here came the wind. Perhaps it had been like this all day this side of the headland but we felt pretty cheated.

Anyway we missed the rock in the bay (score!) and anchored easily in the sand at least 300m out. There’s no reason that we can see for the 300m rule as it’s way beyond the swim area and there’s no Poseidon weed here to protect that we could see.

The town looked amazing.

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We checked the weather to find the wind and swell was due to drop and decided to wait until it was a bit calmer before heading out into town.

We had showers, a beer, dinner and still no joy. It was a lovely spot though.

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The sun dropped. We still rolled around as the breeze and waves came in different directions. In the end we gave up hope and opted for an night onboard instead. It’s a pity too as the town looks great.

We’re not the only ones, we didn’t see anyone else leave the other yachts that came and anchored around us. In closer, the water was still. Perhaps without the 300m rule, we’d have visited the town and helped the local economy. We didn’t see anyone enforcing the rule but we weren’t prepared to take the chance either.

It’s a shame as we’re really keen to see more of Sicily as we feel we haven’t got the feel of it yet, but we were also secretly grateful for an early night after a few full-on days.

Vulcano

We both thought it highly logical that we visit Vulcano, a volcano 15 miles or so North of Milazzo. Someone obviously did a typo when they named it this as I don’t think Star Trek was even out. What an idiot.

Before we could visit a Vol.. sorry, Vulcano, we first had to get out of our berth. The current that had caused us all the problems the night before was still laughing it’s head off when we hopped on deck the next morning. We walked into town to pick up some provisions as we’d be on anchor for the next few nights. We hoped it would have calmed down by the time we got back.

Nope. No luck for us and we needed to get moving so we decided on a plan and got ready.

Two nice marinaros luckily walked past just as we were leaving and after a ‘chat’ (via hand signals as neither of us could understand the other’s language) they agreed with our idea and we set to it.

Instead of fighting the current we decided to use it to push the bow down the lane and then reverse out.

The first part, which should have been the hardest, worked like a charm, we left our tight berth and got pushed to starboard as expected. I then threw Interlude into reverse but underestimated how much the current would effect me getting steerage heading backwards so we drifted a little closer to the other yachts than I would have wanted. We got past them all but a pesky Cat on the end had it’s slime lines out further than the rest and our keel nicked is as we headed out.

Boing!

Like a sling shot, we came to a stop and bounced back forwards as I switched from reverse back into forward to counter it. No harm done and the second try I had way more room to get out cleanly.

First time we’ve snagged a line like that but it didn’t get caught in the propeller which would have been a nightmare. In those tricky conditions with hardly any room to swing a cat we didn’t do too badly and no damage was done to us or anyone else which is the main thing.

The wind was a lovely 15 knots as we left the marina so we got the sails up only to find it was blowing from directly where we wanted to go (always the way!).

Still, it was only 15 miles so we spent a lovely afternoon tacking back and forth and racing a larger monohull who was trying to desperately get in front of us but kept pointing too high and losing speed (what a rookie! haha).

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Leaving him for dust we closed on Vulcano. The landscape and scale of the place once again had us mesmerised. The rock face features were pretty amazing.

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We headed round to the top of the island where the pilot said an anchorage was located. As we approached a guy on a dingy came up and offered us a mooring buoy spot which was only a few Euro’s so we went with that rather than having to try anchoring in the course volcanic sand. Instead of one buoy we ended up with quad buoys – one at each quarter keeping us pinned.

We got Mintilude back out from the locker so we could go ashore and I started to inflate her. It was around this time I realised our dingy is a little wider than our swim platform. As I stepped over to inflate the far side I basically stepped out into thin air and ended up sliding off with the half inflated dingy landing on my noggin. What a muppet.

Was pretty funny how it happened and Helen wasted no time in recording the embarrassment, she then finished off blowing the dingy up as I splashed around fully clothed to the puzzled looks of other yachties wondering what the deal was, but there was no way to get the ladder on the swim platform while the dinghy was there.

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Once Helen let me back on board we locked the boat up and headed to the shore. The place was pretty alien looking. Jet black sand, hot mineral springs, and lots of tourists walking around caked in mud and smelling of eggs. No sign of Spock though which was a bit of a downer.

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We’d tried volcanic mud once before in New Zealand a few years back (it stinks!) so opted for a swim in the hot springs which were amazing.

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After our aches and pains faded away, and we’d got sick of seeing naked muddy tourists, we made our way back to Interlude and made dinner as the sun set.