When we arrived two weeks ago in Riposto to sit out a storm for two days was a wise decision. The winds weren’t the real problem, but the swell was.
Riposto is a small town between Catania and Taormina and if it wasn’t for the marina, I don’t think many visitors would have it on their radar. Quite strange actually, as this place is closest to visit Etna.
Although the weather forecast gave us still high swells of 1.8 meters (the reality is always worse once out at open sea), our neighbours from another sailing boat (SY Surprise from Austria) told us that they were sailing to Reggio Calabria on the opposite side of the Straits. We thought if these seven guys can do, then we can do it as well. Best of all was that Reggio Calabria is at the start of the Straits of Messina and from there we should be out of through the straits within two sailing hours – our departure timing is always dependent on the tidal current direction and the wind as the wrong combination can be treacherous.
Off we went, and coming out of the harbour the swell was there to welcome us. Together with the wind we estimated that the waves were well over 2,5 meters. As we had a perfect wind to sail a beam reach (wind on the side of the boat), the ride on the swell was acceptable and not too uncomfortable. The Genoa was nicely reefed and 18 knots of wind gave a lovely speed of 6.5 knots.
Before we knew it, we were on the other side at the harbour entrance of Reggio Calabria. When furling in the Genoa we realised soon that something wasn’t right. The Genoa and the new FFR sheets (= ropes) had tangled up. Of course, when problems arise it is always when the weather is deteriorating. Whilst keeping the boat in the wind, Peter had to cut one off the new FFR sheets and finally managed to furl in the Genoa.
Pff…all good! Now came the next challenge: mooring the boat with 22+ knots on the beam. Our neighbours from Surprise had already moored up and were waiting for us. We were very grateful for their many hands as the young boy who was supposed to be the mooring assistant failed miserably.
Happily moored up it was time for a beer and a glass of wine as well as meeting a friend of a friend to deliver some marketing material for his marina in the bay of Taormina. The delivery address was a restaurant called ‘Deposito 24’. A fabulous place where we had a great evening and our earlier predicament forgotten.
After a good night’s sleep, we were surprised to find two croissants on our doorstep + a newspaper article about the owner of the North Marina. Quite funny as the journalist kept mentioning that Regio Calabria is the place where the mafia recruit most members !
Together with Ustica and the Aeolian islands a kind of triangle is created that many call the “Bermuda Triangle” of the Mediterranean as the weather is totally unpredictable and can change within minutes. We had already experienced this last year when we were going south through the Straits of Messina towards Taormina.
As the forecast was within reason, we decided to give the museum of Reggio Calabria a miss and hoped to find the sunny Aeolies at only 50nm away from us.
Going through the Straits was excellent with a full Genoa and reefed main sail. Within two hours we made it through to the north of the straits and when we tacked (= turned) to port (= left) towards the Aeolian Islands the wind gave up on us and the sound of the engine accompanied us for the rest of the way to Lipari.
Late in the afternoon we arrived in the little marina of Lipari. An intimate marina at only a 20-minute walk from the centre. Going around the island was easy one bus to the top, walking down to the other end of the island and picking up another bus to return to the marina. We managed to squeeze in a visit to the archaeological museum. We got pretty potty in there…
Which island next? Vulcano it would be. Here we stayed at anchor in a little bay with perfect views to the volcano. Smoke, mainly sulphur, is escaping the many vents in this old volcano. As the wind came from the West, we had chosen the right bay. We heard from some others that the smell of rotten eggs on the east side wasn’t very delightful.
Anchored up, dinghy in the water, hiking boots on, and off we went to climb the volcano and get up close. Besides the amazing views at the top, the fumes were fascinating.
The next morning, we left Vulcano behind us and had a beautiful sail to Panarea. The bay to anchor was perfectly placed in front of the small town (or large village) and we enjoyed a walk through this perfect little village. A small homemade pistachio was an excellent way to end the day.
Finally, the day had come to sail to Stromboli. Together with Etna and Vesuvius, these are the three active volcanoes in Italy. We just couldn’t wait to get there and hope for a lovely eruption, similar to what we witnessed last year with Etna.
Before we anchored in front of the town, we first sailed around the island to check out the north-west side where the ash, stones and lava fall down into the sea and the view is the best.
A non-sailing zone has been put into place, just in case the unimaginable will happen. We were actually amazed to see that a number of boats did go into this no-go zone.
Stromboli welcomed us with a couple of puffs where smoke and ash is kicked into the sky. We were both impressed, but hoped for more.
Once anchored up we relaxed on the boat and kept looking at the top of the mountain hoping to see some fire and red glowing lava. Nothing…
The next morning into the dinghy and after our lava sand landing on the beach we followed the path up and up. At the observation station/restaurant we enjoyed more of these small dust explosions together with coffee and tea plus an early morning Tiramisu. What a perfect way to start the day!
We managed to find the path to do the circular walk and after 3,5 hours we got back into town. Happy and hungry.
After all this activity it was time to relax on the boat when suddenly a big bang was followed by a lesser one. Peter!!! Yeah, a massive mushroom cloud sprouted high into the air. Little vents on our side of the mountain started to open up as well with steam, dust and more. All this observing from the boat.
It felt so good to be on the boat.
Two official pictures. Thinking that were were standing here only 1,5 hours earlier! (Thanks to Bernard Duyck from his Volcano's Facebook site)
Of course, we were hoping for another, even bigger explosion. But I suppose we were spoiled enough as it was.
Two military planes flew around for the remainder of the afternoon to extinguish pockets of fire that broke out where the different vents opened up and set fire to the surrounding vegetation.
Before saying goodbye to Stromboli we sailed into the sunset to the northwest flank again and hoped for some fireworks once the night had set in.
We were fortunate enough to see the green flash of the sun as it dipped below the horizon – the first of this year. There were many other tourist boats with day trippers from Lipari who do this tour every evening, waiting to catch a glimpse of nature at work with an eruption that is caused by the African Tectonic Plate being sub-ducted below the European Plate. This time, though, not a single boat navigated inside the no-go zone.
I wonder why?
Activity after the explosive afternoon was quite calm, but we did see two flames of burning gas just before a cloud of ash was thrown out, so our sunset trip was not a waste.
With the Moon shining brightly over Stromboli, we said our goodbyes to these lovely islands and headed towards the Italian mainland.