Italy: Palermo to Agropoli.

Palermo to Salerno.

Giovanni at Salpancore Marina in Palermo was most helpful in pointing us in the right direction to the Border Police for our passport stamping, the Guardia Costiera for a new “Constituto” (Transit log), the Penguin laundromat and the Carrefour supermarket. We were able to wash the boat and fill up the water tanks, before Martin and Susan Loader from Perth WA, joined us on board on the 1st of August 2019.

Annie trying to get into the Guardia Costiera building.

We met them about three years ago, sailing their yacht “NowAndZen” up the Australian east coast and spent good times cruising together up to northern Queensland, to attend the “Shaggers Rendezvous” at Gloucester Passage. A book could be written about this time. We re-connected like it was yesterday and they will be cruising with us for a week before flying to Paris.

Sue and Annie at Shaggers a few years ago.

Shaggers, Marty and Dirk picking up personality.

Compared to 44 years ago, when my brothers and I travelled through Sicily in our camper van, Palermo has grown into a bit of a dump. I don’t know if the sanitation department is on permanent strike, because walking along the pavements has become like an obstacle course of rubbish. There were one or two well maintained historical buildings worth seeing, as well as a 200 sqm mural to celebrate the lives of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the two brave judges who pursued the Sicilian mafia and as a result, were murdered in 1993 by the Cosa Nostra. We left as soon as we could after stocking up with food and drinks.

Mural citation: But there are actions and reactions. Small daily gestures to break the veil of omertà or great gestures to be seen from afar by all, citizens and criminal organisations. In Palermo: a mural with the immortal faces of two souls who spent their lives in the line of justice, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Their smiles have become the weapon to refute the mafia. Their cooperation is the antibody to get the Cosa Nostra disease out of our society

Baroque church in Palermo

Triumphal entry into Palermo town.

Palermo coffee shop? Simply put out tables in the parking bays.

Our first stop was Cefalu, a beautiful town about midway along the north coast of Sicily. The north coast of Sicily is more developed than the south and substantial highways and train lines follow the coast. The Italian civil engineering projects are of the best in the world, with mind blowing concrete bridges and viaducts. It reminded me of an evening in Melbourne to see the stand-up comedian (and architect) Vince Sorrenti, explaining his Italian heritage and their love of concrete: “Mate, we buy a quarter acre block of land with a house on it and the first thing we do, is concrete the whole yard!”

What a bridge!

Cefalu beach.

Cefalu at sunset.

Cefalu buzzing at night.

From Cefalu we sailed to the Lipari islands to the north east of Sicily. Also known as the Aeolian islands, from the legend of Aeolus who gave Odysseus the contrary winds tied up in a bag. There are seven islands and Alicudi, the most westerly island, doesn’t have suitable anchorages, so we tried to anchor off Filicudi, but the raging north westerly made this impossible. We continued to Salina island, where we got a good anchorage in the lee of the island, at the quaint Santa Marina village.

Marty in his element.

A passing Hydrofoil ferry.

Approaching Filicudi island.

The harbour at Salina island

Buying bread and fruit in Santa Marina village.

Street scene Santa Marina.

Sun Dried tomatoes on the pavement.

Annie and Sue dodging traffic in the village.

The following day we motor sailed to Stromboli, the most northerly island and also known as the oldest lighthouse in the world. This active volcano has been dubbed “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean” from ancient times to the present. The 925m high volcano is in a continuous state of activity, releasing its pressure bit by bit, day by day, instead of building up to a big bang. We anchored off Scari, the main town, next to a Jeanneau 54DS that ran aground in a storm, the week before. A sad sight, with its keel and rudder ripped off and the hull holed in several places.

Approaching Stromboli island

Jeanneau 54DS aground on the rocks.

Stromboli – there she blows.

Lava running down the northern slope.

Night time action.

After viewing the volcanic activity in the afternoon and the evening, we woke up to Esprit covered in fine volcanic grit the next day. On reaching Lipari island, we anchored next to the old harbour and tried to wash down the grit as best we could with buckets of sea water. The old town is beautiful and we enjoyed  exploring it and listening to a jazz guitarist while sipping a beer or two.

Lipari old town.

Lipari harbour.

The town square.

Enjoying a sundowner.

While Giovanni’s guitar gently weeps.

Yesh! let’s have another one.

Annie and Sue discussing shopping strategy.

Overhead bathroom extension.

Our last day was spent at Vulcano island which has a semi active volcano and hot volcanic mud baths with an overpowering sulphur smell.

Vulcano island.

Mud baths.

Lava column next to Esprit.

We motor sailed back to Cefalu in Sicily where we had a farewell dinner with Marty and Sue before they caught the train to Palermo and the airport the next morning on Friday the 9th August. Our parcel with replacment fridge door seals was also delivered by Giovanni from the marina in Palermo, so we spent another day in Cefalu installing the seals, doing the laundry and going out to dinner to listen to some live music.

Back in Cefalu Marty observed: “These ladies have the right footwear for foredeck work”

Farewell dinner starters.

Marty’s kind of shirt.

Last night Cefalu treat for Marty and Sue: Operatic arias in the Duomo town square.

The following night, from the sublime – to Reggae.

Due to intermittent internet contact with our daughters, we were surprised to hear that after six months in Sydney, Michelle was back in London. She was enroute from Norway, where she and Remi had collected a camper van Remi had bought, and was busy travelling to Poland. She contacted us from Venice to ask if she could join us on Esprit in Naples. Karen in the meantime, decided to buy a house in Newcastle, as it seems her training in orthopaedic surgery will keep her at the John Hunter hospital for the foreseeable future.

Remi and his van at Lake Como.

Michelle in Venice.

Three day sails of about 30 nm/day brought us to the northern entry to the Strait of Messina. After crossing the Strait, we anchored at Scilla on the Italian mainland, followed by Bagnara and Tropea, before we had a big day sailing to Cetraro, 54 nm to the north west. Here we anchored next to a catamaran from Bundaberg in Australia and were invited over for drinks with Grant and Leslie Thompson.

Strait of Messina. The HT electrical supply cable masts became redundant, due to wind farms in southern Sicily.


We had to anchor in Sapri bay, 37 nm to the north west, to buy more Vodafone data time as their app wasn’t working on our phones. We also had to post signed documents to Sydney, which took 45 minutes in a queue at the post office to buy a stamp. No rush here mate. The three discos and karaoke bars blaring their music until three o’clock in the morning in Sapri, were the pits.

Arts and Craft style in Sapri.

Ice cream in Sapri – in the parking bay!

After a short hop to Scario, a small town along the coast, we bumped into Grant and Leslie again. The town deserved a two day stay and explore and the generous snacks served with drinks at all the bars, forced us to go on a pub crawl with Grant and Leslie on the second night.

Scario harbour.

Annie and her namesake convent in Scario.

Good value – two Peroni’s and spuntino (snacks) for EU3. (OMG! this looks like a Facebook post)

Grant, Leslie and Annie.

We felt energised by these fun run athletes trotting past our table.

A day sail to San Marco, followed by a short 7 nm motor sail brought us to Agropoli – a corruption of Acropolis, betraying the town’s Greek origins. We were anchored outside the harbour under a cliff with houses perched above, as there were no berths available in the harbour.

The entrance to Agropoli harbour.

We anchored outside the harbour.

In the afternoon Michelle arrived, having flown to Naples and taking the train from there to Agropoli. It was good to catch up with her news. Early the next morning we caught a train to Paestum, about 10 km to the north-east. Said to be the finest Greek architecture in Italy, the ruins of the town have stood in majestic solitude for over a thousand years. The city was founded by Greeks in the 6th century BC.

Michelle and Annie – the local train.

Paestum: The temple of Athena.

The temple of Neptune.

The temple of Hera.

Detail: Temple of Neptune.

It was as hot as Hades, but well worth the effort and after visiting the extensive museum, we took a bus back to Agropoli. We raised our anchor in the afternoon and set sail for Salerno, where we had to meet Michelle’s friend Remi, the following day.

Michelle, back behind the wheel.

Cheers for now!


Italy: Bari to Palermo.

We left Cavtat in Croatia at 4 pm on Tuesday 2nd July 2019 and motored for two hours before we reached the forecasted northeaster. With the wind building, we soon had to tuck in two reefs in the mainsail and furl the jib to 50%. The sea was flat and we covered the 105 nm in 15 hours to arrive in Bari, Italy at 7 am, averaging 7 knots – a most satisfactory crossing. As we were now entering the European areas with costly marina charges, we will record these charges to aid our fellow sailors who follow our blog and plan to sail in these areas.

Bari to Palermo.

The marina in Bari, Nautica Ranieri, offered us a berth for two nights at EU 50 a night. We did the laundry and cleaned the boat, before David and Patricia Bruce form Cape Town arrived the following day. We then explored the old town of Bari, stocked up with groceries, filled the diesel tank and sailed the 27 nm south to Monopoli, which is quite an old and attractive town.

Dave, Pat and Annie at Strada del Dottula, Bari.

A wedding on the Vico la Trulla.

The colourful Vico la Trulla area in Bari.

Meeting SA expats who are living in Germany, in Monopoli. Notice the ” ‘n Boer maak ‘n Plan” T-shirt.

Street scene in Monopoli.

Colourful Baroque church in Monopoli.

Poor man’s copy of Michelangelo’s David found in Monopoli.

From here we called in at Brindisi and then Otranto, before rounding the heel of Italy to Santa Maria de Leuca, where we spent two days. We left early on the 10th July to do the 75 nm crossing of the Gulf of Taranto in winds of between 5 and 25 knots, with rain and thunder. It was a relief to tie up in Ciro Marina where we were bunkered down for two days while a 25 knot northerly raged.

Brindisi old town with the Via Appia steps.

Annie and Patricia at the steps.

A Mussolini era monument in Brindisi.

Otranto anchorage.

An entrance into Otranto old town.

Otranto square.

Argentinians, Leo and Carla and their dog, cycling the world.

Otranto taxi.

Otranto beach.

I was fortunate to locate a reinforced water pipe in Ciro to replace the leaking pipe on the hot water cylinder, while we waited for the wind to abate. We had a good sail to La Castella, 40 nm to the south west, where a too shallow entry to the inner harbour, as well as the outer harbour packed with fishing boats, forced us to raft up on an abandoned, rusty yacht.

Mussolini’s steps into Italy at Santa Maria de Leuca.

Outdoor dancing in St Maria de Leuca.

Tied up to a wreck in La Castella.

The next day started with me diving to clear the propellor from a birds nest of fishing buoy ropes, before we set sail for the 53 nm crossing of the Gulf of Squillace to tie up late afternoon in Roccella Ionica at the marina. The marina staff was most helpful and charged EU 60 for the night.

An early start the next morning with a good following wind, had us poled out to cover the 77 nm across the Strait of Messina, to anchor in Naxos by 6 pm. (Naxos was colonised by the Greeks – hence the name) A heavy swell early the next morning, forced us to leave Naxos and motor through a big sea to look for shelter and tie up NIC Marina in Catania at EU 40 for the night. Catania has a big harbour and is quite run down, but we had a lovely dinner in town – in the rain.

Walking past the Bellini theatre on our way to dinner.

After dinner – Grappa and Limoncello.

We motor sailed the 30 nm to Siracusa to be welcomed by a storm with pelting rain as we entered the harbour. The marina quoted us EU 90/night, but a French couple tied up to the town quay, told us we should go and see the Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) for a berth. If there is one available, they will allow you to stay for five nights for free! No power or electricity available – which we don’t require, as we are self sufficient. Annie went to their office and managed to get us a berth.

The entrance into Siracusa harbour when it’s not raining.

Archimedes, Siracusa’s favourite son of 23 centuries ago.

Dave and Patricia were due to fly out from Catania in five days, so we decided to stay put, as we were all knackered after some hectic sailing. Apart from that, Siracusa is an attractive place, with a beautiful old town. We spent five relaxed days exploring the town, fixed the lazy jacks, broken during our dramatic entry into the bay and having our main and jib sheets washed at a laundry.

Amazing plasterwork on the Chamber of Commerce building.

The famous Sea Shepherd in the harbour.

Even an alley can be a restaurant

A chandlery supplied us with Dyneema non-stretch rope for a new main halyard and pre-stretched polyester rope for our worn-out reefing lines, at a reasonable price. These and the washed sheets (now a lot softer) were installed and other maintenance items done, while visiting the markets and having relaxed breakfasts and dinners in between with Dave and Patricia.

The fish market.

Not only fruit and veg, but spices too.

Walking to dinner.

The cathedral square.

We also attended a concert by a brilliant duo from the Netherlands, Bobby Rootveld and Sanna van Elst, called Duo NIHZ.

Bobby and Sanna.

Our ladies, Patricia and Annie.

Fountain in the town square of Siracusa.

On Saturday the 20th July, Dave and Pat caught the bus to the airport for their flight back to Cape Town. We checked out with the Frontier Police, filled the tank and jerry cans with diesel and motored to Capo Passero, 31 nm to the south where we anchored in crystal clear water. It was great to swim off the back of the boat in privacy, after five days in a goldfish bowl, on the town quay.

Capo Passero anchorage.

To crown it all, a splendid jazz quartet in the style of George Benson, played at a restaurant on shore, while we grooved in the cockpit with a litre of wine and barbecued our fish, bought at the market that morning. We made water and filled the water tanks the following day. The anchorage was pleasant enough for us to stay another day and night, before motor sailing 50 nm to Scoglitti, further west. The beaches along the south coast are sandy and attracts many tourists. It appears this area is also the fruit and veg basket of Italy, judging by the thousands of tunnel hothouses.

Leaving Capo Passero.


Our next anchorage was San Leone which was holiday central for tourists, with blaring doof-doof music and over excited DJ’s shouting at the top of their voices. The mozzies decided they couldn’t handle the noise and came to join us on Esprit – what a night! The next anchorage at Sciacca was a lot quieter and prettier, before we reached the island of Favignana, off the west Sicilian coast.


We anchored in the bay Cala Rossa on the north coast as a strong southerly was predicted for the following day. A remarkable spot with dozens of yachts and boats on moorings or at anchor in crystal clear water – we stayed for two nights before a building northwesterly forced us to motor to the south side and anchor in Scindo Passo.

Intense blue, but clear water.

Here, the wind started blowing hard, reaching 25 – 30 knots overnight, with a hideous swell on the beam for a sleepless night. To crown it all, on leaving the bay the next morning, we struck an uncharted sandbank and got stuck. A friendly Frenchman came to our aid with his dinghy, sporting a 20 hp motor. With our Yanmar and his Honda at full revs, we couldn’t budge Esprit.

We won’t forget Scindo Passo!

Our main and jib were hoisted and with the 15 knot wind and the two motors, we eventually sailed Esprit off the sandbank. Quite a relief, so while the going was good we carried on in the 15 knot wind and sailed all the way to Capo San Vito, 31 nm to the N-E, where we anchored for the night.

Capo San Vito.

Our last anchorage before Palermo was Baia di Mondello. A short hop to Palermo followed, where we booked a berth at the Salpancore Marina in order to pick up Marty and Sue, our friends from Perth.

Baia di Mondello.

Look out for our next post, probably from Naples, or a bit further north along the Italian coast.