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