Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sicily so far

We left Ponza a week ago and have been mostly on the boat ever since. Yesterday we did go ashore at San Nicolo L’Arena—twice. The first time was to go shopping, and the second time was primarily because I wanted to get off the boat again although we bought a few more provisions too: wine and biscotti. We didn’t explore beyond the main street of the little town, and although we would have liked to go into Palermo, we decided against it because it would have meant another night in the marina.

It cost us 60€/night to moor, which included water, electricity and trash, but the restrooms and showers were locked, and we weren’t too impressed with the young guys running the place. As far as we could tell, we were the only visitors. The cruising guide says they have 45 guests slips, but I suspect they only have the one we were in. A sailboat with a courtesy flag was tied up on one side of the fuel dock, but it seemed to be a long-term situation because a power boat was rafted on the outside of it. When we first arrived on Sunday, a couple of days earlier, the place was totally packed, so we spent two windy nights anchored outside.

That makes our current anchorage our third in Sicily, all on the north coast. Our first was outside Castellammere del Golfo. We picked Castellammere as our first stop when we learned that the free mooring buoys at Trapani had been condemned. That is, the coast guard won’t let you stay there because they haven’t been inspected or maintained in six years. Maybe they would let you stay in calm weather, but big winds were in the forecast, and Trapani is windier than most places because it gets cape-effect winds. Better to find somewhere a bit more sheltered. Castellammere seemed to fit the bill as long as the winds were from the west, and it has a Greek ruin nearby that we thought we’d like to see.

Castellammare with old town wall in foreground

The beach we anchored off of at Castellammare

Unfortunately, although the wind was from the west, the swell was from the northwest. The cruising guide shows an anchorage inside the breakwater, but construction on the breakwater has that one off limits. Our anchorage well away from the protection of the jetty was pretty rolly. A couple of different boats came out from the marina as we arrived offering us a berth at 30€/night. (Wait, make that 25, but it’s the least possible.) In retrospect, we should have taken them up on it. I doubt we’ll see those rates again in the Med. We stayed for two nights, but didn’t go ashore because it would have been too hard to launch and retrieve the dinghy in the swell and chop. Then took advantage of a break in the gale warnings to move on to San Nicolo, where we planned to go into the marina, but as I mentioned earlier, it was full.

We did have a chance to sail using both sails and with the motor off for a couple of hours on our way to San Nicolo. That was pretty nice, and it was the first time that has happened for us in the Mediterranean.

Now we’re anchored at Cefalù. Several cruisers have told us this was their favorite anchorage in Sicily, and it is pretty nice. We’re sheltered from the worst of the swell by the harbor’s breakwater, and it’s very pretty. We plan to spend at least two nights here so that we can go into town, which boasts a twelfth century Norman cathedral. Otherwise, this is mostly a pretty resort.

Norman cathedral visible on our approach to Cefalù

Ruin atop a rock off our stern at Cefalù

From here we plan to head to the Aeolian Islands, a string of volcanic islands between Sicily and the mainland. The archipelago includes several active volcanoes, and our friends on Islay Mist say we shouldn’t miss out on the walk to the crater on Isola Vulcano. A night sail around Stromboli to see the lava flows is also mandatory, so we have a lot to see before we transit the Strait of Messina to get to the east side of Sicily.

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