As we were getting ready to sail from Palermo, the next day's weather forecast said strong winds. From the south. A little from the shore the wind would come from the north. That measnt off shore wind on the route we were going to sail. But strong winds blowing down from high mountains met by onshore winds a few miles from the shore can be a dangerous cocktail.
"Wait until it's over," Ben advised us.
When the wind had calmed down, we left Palermo. We motored towards Cefalú along the spectacular coast in no wind and almost no swell. After a few hours, the wind came. It was against. The two weeks in Palermo had left its marks. Also on Heron. The bottom, which had been cleaned in Ottioulu, was foul again. The fouled bottom slowed down the speed and increased diesel consumption. We sailed against currents, wind and waves with 20% less speed and a probably correspondingly higher consumption of diesel.
The marina in Cefalú was almost empty when we arrived late in the afternoon. Marina was perhaps too ambitious a word for the floating pontoon that the guest boats were offered. The pontoon was completely unprotected against swell from the east. If the wind picked up, it wouldn't be nice to be here. But what the marina lacked in protection and comfort was so amply compensated by the view to the mountains and the cliffs. Great to be out in nature again. During the evening several boats arrived. When it got dark, the floating pontoon was fully occupied.
We left Cefalú the next morning and sailed further east. Now towards Capo d'Orlando.
«ETA 17.38 » we wrote in SMS to Jean & Christian when we left Cefalú the next morning. We had met Jean & Christian in Palermo. They had sailed to Capo D'Orlando a few days before. A few years ago, they had sailed around the world. Now they were planning another circumnavigation. This summer they were on their way to Montenegro. Here they would leave the boat over the next few months.
«We will be waiting for you at your berth at 17.35 » Jean answered jokingly (ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and is quite uncertain at longer distances.
When it was 17.35 we were a short distance from the 300 high cliff that falls towards the sea off Capo D'Orlando.
We sent a new SMS
«ETA 18.23. The wind is right in the nose. 16 knots with 24 knots in the breath »
and got the answer
«OK. We will be at your berth on at 18.21. Wind 3 knots here »
As we passed the light house off the Capco D'Orlando and got on the windward side of the large cliff, the wind calmed down to the 3 knots. We called the port office on the VHF. In the harbor entrance we were greeted by a 'ormmegiatore' in a tender and guided to the vacant berth Jean had booked for us.
During the Second Punic War, the Romans deported 4.000 inhabitants of the Greek colony of Agathyrnum to southern Italy. The inhabitants worshiped the god of religious ecstasy Dionysus and were rather unruly. In southern Italy, the Romans hoped that the inhabitants would give the Roman enemy number one Hannibal as much trouble as they gave the Romans on Sicily.
Back was a small and insignificant fishing village that, with the introduction of Christianity, changed its name to Capo d'Orlando.
Under Mussolini, the city got its own station on the railway line between Palermo and Messina. This created growth. Today, Capo d'Orlando has approx. 13.000 inhabitants. A 10 kilometer long white sandy beach, the Nebrodi Park Natural Park and the Aeolian Islands make it a popular holiday destination. In the summer months, the population is tripled. Today, tourism is one of the city's most important sources of income. Despite the relatively few permanent inhabitants, the city's basketball team'Orlandina Basket', is among Italy's and thus Europe's best.
Capo d'Orlando is also known for its early rebellion against the mafia. As early as in December 1990 the association ACIO was formed. The purpose was to help businesses reject the mafia's claim for rackets. The association still exists. Reportedly, it inspired other cities for similar actions.
A few years ago, the construction of a new marina started, partly financed by EU funds.
The marina, which can accommodate over 500 boats, was inaugurated in 2017 and is located almost 4 kilometers away from the city. A bit of a deseret as Jean had SMSed us. But the distance to the city didn't really matter that much.
In the marina area was a supermarket, a few cafes, restaurants and shops. If you wanted to go into town, you could get some one from the friendly staff at the port office to call Gabriella. She drove visitors to and from the city in her car for two euros.
After spending a few days in Capo D'Orlando we were visited by Jan and Mette. They were on vacation and lived in a small town near the marina. A rare coincidence. Carl and Jan are child and youth friends. Except for a single meeting a few years ago, they had not seen each other in over 40 years. We spent three pleasant days together and experienced some of Sicily from the country side in their rental car.
When Jan and Mette had returned home, we rented a car ourselves. We first drove to Porto Rosa Holiday and Marina Park. It was large and artificial. Very large and very artificial. We quickly agreed that this was not where we would leave Heron for the summer. We drove on to the highway and towards Taormina and Naxos on the east coast. There were holes in the pavement in some places, but otherwise it was fine. When we got to Messina there was suddenly an impressive network of highways, almost like a highway network in a US metropolis.
After a night in Naxos we continued further south towards Siracusa and found the old town of Ortigia. The city was one of the main cities of ancient Greece. Magna Grecia as the Romans called the super power of the time. This was where Archimedes lived and formulated many of the laws on which the physics and mathematics of our time are based. At the beginning of the 90´ies a refurbishment of the city was initiated. Today it appears well-preserved like many of the other old cities of the major cities along the Spanish, French and Italian Mediterranean coast.
After a few days we drove back to Heron in Capo d'Orlando.
The Aeolian Islands are located northeast of Capo D'Orlando. The islands were created during volcanic eruptions that lasted 260.000 years and sent lava from the interior of the earth up to the crust of the earth, which at that time was 3.600 meters below sea level. Today, only the islands of Stromboli and Vulcano are active. Stromboli has been active for the past 3.000 years and is the world's most active volcano. Vulcano, from which the word volcano originates, is categorized as dormant and had its last outbreak over 200 years ago.
The archipelago has a population of 15.000 permanent residents. The vast majority, around 12.000, live on Lipari, which with an area of 37 KM2 is the largest of the seven islands. Tourism is the most important profession, but fishing, wine growing and pumice extraction also contribute to income.
It was on the Aeolian Islands the god of the winds Aeolus gave the Odyssues and his crew wind from the west that would finally bring them home to Ithaca. Upon departure, Odysseus received a bag from Aeolus. The crew thought it contained a treasure that Odyssues would keep for himself. Having sailed for many days and having Itacha in sight, they sneaked to open the bag. Out came all the other wind directions that led Odysseus and the crew back to the Aeolian Islands.
After a couple of hours of sailing we reached Vulcano. This was where we were had sailed to with a hydrofoil from Milazzo with Jan and Mette a few weeks earlier. We had spent an afternoon on the island. Watched the smoke from the top of the crater. Been surprised by its the strong smell of rotten eggs. Passed by the mud bath enterpreneurs had fenced so that visitors could be charged an entrance fee and swimmed from the beach, where hot springs suddenly flowed up from the bottom like a nature-created jazucci.
Now we sailed along the western side of the island up to the narrow and short strait to Lipari and further along the eastern side.
On our starboard we could see Stromboli until we changed course to dock the marina Pignataro, located in a bay just north of the main town of Lipari.
We hadn't been in the marina long before a man came out on the pontoon and said
«Well I thought I saw a Danish flag »
It was Kim. He and his wife Lene were berthed with their boat The Swan a little closer to land on the bridge. Like us they had sailed across Europe. By the time they had reached the Mediterranean, they had intended to sail home next year. But when spring had come , they had changed their plans. The course had been set east until they reached Greece. Here they had spent a year. Now they were finally on their way home.
In the evening we walked over to the beach. Bathed and then followed a procession of half-grown children in white robes, women in dark dresses and men in white shirts. Both with a wide red cross band on the upper body. In the middle, a priest was walking under a canopy held by a couple of men. The crowd stopped in front of a picture of the Virgin Mary. Here, the priest messaged a prayer. Then the procession started singning, walked down the street now followed by singing spectators.
The next day, we took advantage of the marina's offer to take a free taxi into town. The driver, a young woman, told in good English that she was 'very busy' in the summer, but that there was nothing to do in the winter. Nothing at all.
In the main street we met Kim and Lene. They had rented a car. Together with them we drove a short distance to a restaurant. Here we had lunch and enjoyed the view of the active volcano Stromboli and the other two islands of Salina and Panarea.
The next morning we followed The Swan over to the island of Salina. Here we found an anchorage near the shore where, according to the weather forecast, there would be shelter the next day.
We found a bright spot on the bottom of the five meter deep water. Bright spots are sandy bottoms, which the anchor will dig into and be easy to get up from, Kim and Lene had explained to us. Late in the afternoon we were picked up by Kim in the Swan's tender. We were rowed to the shore. Walked along the small street towards the sea. Here was a discreet, relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere. We had dinner at a restaurant. Had a nice evening. Told stories and heard about Greece, which it would be foolish of us to skip now that we had come this far.
The Mediterranean darkness subsided and in the roaring darkness Kim rowed us all back to Heron in the tender , which lay, to say the least, heavy in the water.
In the distant darkness, a red pillar of fire rose in the air for a few minutes. Strange. 10 minutes later the phenomenon repeated. No doubt. It was Stromboli, the lighthouse of the Mediterranean, that sent red hot lava high into the air.
The next morning we could fully feel the sense of freedom the Danish writer and explorer Troels Kløvedal describes when he gets up in the cockpit early in the morning, senses the calm and silence, jumps naked inro the water and swims a walk around the boat in the clear water.
Shortly after our morning swim there was life on The Swan. The anchor was pulled up and we said goodbye to Kim and Lene, who had 10-12 hour sailing ahead of them to the Italian mainland.
When we pulles our anchor a few hours later, we heard a thundering. Strange. There was not a cloud in the sky. It had to be an eruption on Stromboli.
We sailed back to Capo D'Orlando. Anchored off the beach west of the harbor. Bathed, had a late lunch and then sailed into the harbor.
Shortly after we had moored, we received a text message from Kim.
«Have you read the news? There has been a huge outbreak on Stromboli. Are you still anchored at Salina? »
And quite right. The news had already hit the organized media on the web.
There had been two very powerful explosions.
One hiker was reported dead, another seriously injured and a dozen tourists had panicked and rushed into the sea.
«No» we replied «We docked in Capo d'Orlando an hour ago»
Spring sailing ends
Over the next few days, we prepared Heron for dry docking. Saturday morning we sailed to the yard. A few employees stood ready. A few minutes later, Heron was hauled on land. We said goodbye to Marco and his father, who runs the yard, got Gabriella to drive us to the station where we took the train to Naxos.
Here we met in the evening with Daniel & Emilie and our youngest granddaughter Luva, who had turned seven months the day before.
We spent the next 1 1 / 2 week together. Experienced much more of Sicily, took the train to Syracuse. From there we went to Catania where we all flew home to Denmark.
This springs sailing in the Mediterranean had ended.
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