Trapani and East
We anchored just under an old fort at the entrance to the harbor. Trapani has a relatively attractive waterfront with the real beauty lying on streets just behind the marina district, the old quarter. This area has wide boulevards which are Spanish Baroque mixed with arabic/moorish style architecture. Beyond this little area, the construction is not so attractive. We were more interested in the small mountain town, just outside of Trapani called Erice. Erice is a walled medieval town up on top of Mt. Eryx and overlooks Trapani as well as great views of the valley below. Being that we were mid April, the tourist town was relatively empty. We spent a half day here, then finished our provisioning in Trapani and got Cadence ready to continue heading east along the north coast of Sicily.
We stopped for the night in San Vito Lo Capo and anchored just off the beach and the next morning, after clearing our prop of fishing line from half of my own reel, we finished our trek to Castellammare Del Golfo. We were planning to meet up with our friend Zia Wesley here for a few days, as well as sit out another Mistral. The mistral had kicked itself into gear before our arrival and we sped our way to Castellammare. Zia was staying at a small hotel that has natural hot springs which were used to fill, daily, the pool and hot tub. We enjoyed a few good soaks with her and her friend Nico who just bought a beautiful home overlooking the town and had access to the same “hot river” that the hotel had. Plans were to make a little retreat for himself and paying guests. We made a couple of road trips while here, one being to Sagesta which had an amazing Doric temple and ampitheatre.
We also made a two day land trip to Agrigento, Valley of the Temples. An amazing archeological find of Greek ruins built some 2500 years ago.And a stop at Gibalina, the art town that time forgot. Apparently after an earthquake, the Italian government sanctioned the complete rebuilding of a town that was devastated. Many world famous artist provided very large installations and the modern town was built. No one ever moved in as it was so far from their “normal” Sicilian architecture that this place is now overgrown with weeds and cracked pavement and housing that is vacant. Kind of like a “Twilight Zone” episode. We shared some fantastic meals together these few days and had a lot of laughs. We were dropped back to our floating home and made for Palermo the next day where we were to meet up with David
We planned to stay here a few days as it was told to be a highlight of Sicily. Our first night we anchored just outside the entrance and then took a berth for 4 nights inside the harbor. Zia and Nico made a road trip back to see us in Palermo and stayed the night aboard Cadence. We painted the town every shade of red and made it back to Cadence sometime around 4:30 am. The night was filled with all sorts of debauchery and was a real blast, that would in the end take 3 days to recover from. David arrived Palermo the next evening and we took the time with him to tour the sites of the city and recover from the Zia/Nico soiree. From the Quattro Canti, Cappella Palantina, Fontana Pretoria, Opera house, and many other small city treasures, we all fell in love with the city. Palermo has a certain grunge factor as its a bustling city and underneath the grunge is beautiful architecture of a proud longstanding medieval history. The energy of the city was palpable and having spent only 5 days here, we felt we just scratched the surface. Yet we needed to move on as we had plans to see more of Sicily and make our way towards Greece.
Our next stop was Cefalu and we had a great day sail to get there with a stiff following breeeze. Another beautiful medieval town, with a fort at the top of the hill, small winding streets now catering to tourists, the Cathedral in town and beautiful architecture. Zia made the road trip from her Spa hotel to see us here and spent a couple of nights. Zia is filled with life stories that wow any listener. She hung out with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, was on Broadway and opened the theater company in San Francisco to put on Hair in the 70’s, published author, owned a cosmetics company, married 5 times, age of 71 with looks and energy of early 40’s, living in Italy for a year to write yet another book and learn Italian. We all enjoyed her company immensely and hope to catch up with her again in the US one day. Go Zia!!
We left Cefalu for Capo D’Orlando, a non descript spot that had a rental car agency, our only reason for stopping. David and I rented a car to make the road trip to Catania so we could pick up Charlotte, Davids girlfriend, who we were excited to spend the next several weeks with sailing. The next morning we took off for a few days in the Lipari islands. Our first stop was the island of Vulcano, which you guessed it, had a volcano that we would hike up to the next day. Also some mud baths that Jess would take advantage of and a very small town where we tried out some of the local Malvasia wine. The anchorage was beautiful with the smoking volcano as the backdrop.
The next day we made our way to the island of Salina and stayed in the small harbor there. We hiked the highest peak, rented mopeds and toured the island, and went out for our best dinner yet in Italy at a small Michelin rated restaurant. We also were treated to a great winery tour by the owners of Hauner wines. We enjoyed many glasses of wine overlooking the med below at their vineyard, lemon trees, olive trees, and obviously vineyards were the backdrop. The wine was fantastic as well. Our plan was to hike Stromboli, an active Volcano just a few miles to our east but the weather would not allow for us to anchor around the completely open island.
We left Salina expecting 20-30 knots on the stern and end up with only 10-12, a big disappointment as we wanted a little rowdy sail to our next destination, Scilla. Scilla is a town at the entrance to the Messina Straits on mainland Italy. The town was the perfect picture of small Italian fishing village with the little homes perched right on the sea and dominated by a castle at the top of the hill overlooking the harbor. We pulled in and were greeted by the ormagettori (Italian harbor boss) in his dinghy and tied up to his mooring in the middle of the harbor. The wind and swell worked against each other and we rolled like a weeble all night, even after our stern anchor attempt. No sleep for anyone, so we moved the next day to a concrete wall which had good protection. Unfortunately the swell had changed that evening and next thing we knew were pitching and rolling next to the concrete so at 5 am we picked our way off the wall and made for the Messina Straits. Again, no sleep for anyone. That morning the crew slept while I flew through the straits with an additional 4 knots of current. Catching the current was luck as I had done little research into how the currents flowed in this busy stretch of land between mainland Italy and Sicily. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.
We arrived our next town of Taormina and anchored just below the hilltop city and a beautiful anchorage. Taormina lies very close to Mt. Etna. We enjoyed some great swimming, paddle boarding, and the town tour of Taormina. Although it is a complete tourist only town filled with cruise ship people and bus tours, (now by us called “Walkers” from the show The Walking Dead, it was worth seeing this beautiful hilltop town. The town sits atop a high hill, with the back drop of Mount Etna. The Greco-Roman amphitheater at the very top overlooking the sea is a no miss site.
From Taormina we made our way South to Siracusa where would anchor right next to the town and meet up with Grace and Kevin for their several weeks aboard Cadence. As we only have two cabins and room for four comfortably, Jess and I decided to take a land vacation and leave the kids on the boat in the protected anchorage. We stayed at a little B&B right in Ortyga (the old town of Siracusa). Our B&B was on the more economical side of expensive yet it could not have been more perfect. We had a big bedroom with a balcony overlooking Via Roma and on the top of the building was a deck where we were served a fantastic breakfast. The owner, Simon and Cassandra were great hosts and we would highly recommend their B&B. We spent all together 4 days in Siracusa and one road trip to climb Mt. Etna with Grace and Kevin. In Siracusa there is a fantastic market with the freshest of the fresh everything. The narrow streets and fantastic piazzas and incredible architecture was our back drop. We all ate our way through the city and enjoyed a few great meals and typical tourist activities.
David and Charlotte had a 6:20 am bus to Catania where they would catch the first of their flights to get back to the States. Grace Kevin Jess and I all spent another day enjoying the city and the next morning rented a car and drove to Mount Etna. We took the funicular up to the mid point of the volcano and then hiked up to about the 2/3 or more but could not summit as apparently there was a decent amount of seismic activity taking place. The black sand slopes and steaming craters were otherworldly and we spent a good portion of the day playing here. We then made our way back to our little maccina and made our way to the Gambino winery on the slopes of Etna. The volcanic ash makes the soil very rich in nutrients and hence, a special wine
David Kevin Jess and I had a 250 mile trek in front of us, Siracusa to Corfu. We left mid day and started out with a decent sail, and like typical Med wind, it went all different directions then died. We motored in flat seas for the night, then the next morning, out of nowhere, we had 30 knots of wind. We sailed into Le Castella, Italy for a mid way break of the trek. We anchored at first in front of the town and when the wind settled made our way into the small harbor and tied up to concrete quay. We ended up spending two nights here and although the town was dead as its still off season, we enjoyed exploring.
Our last half of the trek, 130 nm, went pretty quickly, started off motoring and ended up with a solid quartering breeze that took us all the way to Erikousa. There we did a hike and checked out the small village, then made our way just around the corner to a secluded beautiful sand beach that we had all to ourselves. We spent the next day playing on the beach and then made our way across to Northern Corfu and the small hamlet of Kassiopi where we med moored right in town. This used to be a small Greek fishing village but has since surrendered to the English. Now its a hopping English colony with all the trimmings and trappings of the rainy English isle yet the sun of Corfu. Heavy set pasty skinned or sun burnt beer drinking football fans dominate the old Greek town. We all actually enjoyed the town, had a great meal on the water and may even return. The view behind the boat across North Channel was the mountains of Albania which made for a beautiful back drop.
The next day we anchored just outside of town on a beautiful beach and enjoyed the solitude of an anchorage. Our typical paddle board beach walk and hike, something for everyone. Grace and Kevin were flying out in a few days and wanted to spend some time in Corfu town so off we went the next day and anchored up just underneath the old Venetian fort, complete with its own moat. Although it is over run with tourist that come by the hoards, the town itself is magnificently beautiful. Beautiful flowers in bloom and the fragrance to go with. We had a nice dinner with a killer view and sunset to end the day. The kids toured town the next day while Jess and I went through the Greek bureaucracy of checking in Cadence. First we went to the Port Police, they didn’t know what to do at first, then someone with experience came over and helped us fill out some paperwork. Then we were told to go to customs, about a mile away. There we arrived and were told to come back the next day. So we walked 25 minutes back to the boat. The next morning, Grace and Kevin had us out late and we were slightly over served so missed our 9:30 time frame for the customs guy. We arrived close to 11 and played dumb. They took about an hour and half to provide us the papers needed to cruise in their country and then sent us back to port police. There we got the final blessing of someone to be on our way. Its funny, these people check boats in here all the time but you would think this was their first go around. We did all this knowing that we were leaving the country to go to Albania so we could check ourselves and Cadence out of the EU. People get 90 days on their visa before you have to leave and boats get 18 months before they impose the VAT tax which is 20% of boat value. So only 2 days later I would be back in their office getting stamped out of Greece and returning all the paper work. Any who, the last day Grace and Kevin spent touring the city and then went out for a romantic couples dinner on their own. The next morning I had to drop them off at the dinghy dock at 5:30 am so they could get to the airport for the trip home.