Italy - Isola Pantelleria
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To view our next log entries please use the following link: Malta.
Log Entry Saturday 22nd May - time to leave for Malta.
As morning arrives we wake early to check the weather, our hopes are high. We use two forms of weather, grib files and the Italian broadcast on the VHF. The grib files show good, moderate to light northwesterly winds, the Italian forecast is for Force 7 (bad), northwesterly's (good), falling off during the night to F6 - who do you believe? The Italians have a gale warning issued for our sea area and the Lybian sea area? When I check the Maltese local forecast over the Navtex they forecast light to moderate northwesterly's up to 50 miles off shore? We have very little wind here locally? When we put all of that together we decide that the gale warning refers to the sea area to the south of Malta - we decide to go and manage what we find. Sylvain and Amelie (Raki) slip their lines and move off, we say our goodbyes to Preban and Dolorous, Preban kindly helps us with our lines.
We slowly leave the port, winds are very light, but the swell is considerable giving us great discomfort so we motor out towards open water to try and find better wind and less confused sea?
We pass "Pta San Leonardo", we are clearly on our way, a gale looks very unlikely at this stage? Once out from the island the wind and sea are a little better, Raki, a much lighter boat (that is our excuse?) disappearing into the distance.
Very soon we come across numerous dolphins, they spend about three hours with us, very unusual, they must have been really bored? The sea now falling considerable making the sailing more pleasurable.
The dolphins stay with us for most of the afternoon, disappearing occasionally, only to return. We were now well on our way, making our way out of Italian waters.
Log Entry Friday 21st May - Amelie' birthday!
We ask Sylvain & Amelie, and their two children, Leonie & Gustave (S.V. Raki) for dinner, literally, they have been rafted to the outside of Sailaway for some time. Like us they have been awaiting better winds for Malta. Upon their arrival they declare it is in fact Amelie's birthday, bringing a birthday cake with them?
The dinner and conversation go well, we have now known them since Tunisia - a great family! When it comes time for the cake they ask if it is ok to light the candles - after due consideration I declare my concern about the heat as there are to be 36 candles! A compromise is made and the two digits "3 & 6" are lit, with only two candles any concerns about "health and safety" are squashed. We close the evening discussing our planned departure tomorrow, a final check on the forecast in the morning will decide, we have had force 7's & 8's for over a week now.
Log Entry Tuesday 18th May - off on our travels around the island.
We had a chat with the guys on the fishing boat that we are tied along side yesterday, they have no set plans to move yet as the weather is still an issue. It is not because of the wind strength or sea state, but we now under stand because of the harbour entrance, due to the size of the swell/waves coming in it is now not possible to move in and out - the ferries and flights have also stopped. They cannot tell us as to when they intend to move, they are waiting for an opportunity, similar to us, but they will not move today, so we decide to spend the day exploring the island. Ann has a keen interest to bath in the mud pools, and wash in the hot springs - strange woman? There are two sets of hot springs on the coast line, Gadia, on the east coast and Sateria on the west. We are told that they would not be good, in fact cold due to the sea state. We decide to make for Lago Specchio Di Verne, a lake in one of the volcanic craters. Lago is located to the west of the island, however as the island is so small, we plan to make our way around the circumference, ending up there around mid afternoon.
As mentioned in an early log entry the island has one central volcano (Montage Grande) surrounded by smaller, numerous craters, we are surprised by the mass of man made terraces created to produce flat land area from the hillsides. The flat land is then converted to any thing from cultivation, to houses, the island is a mass of cultivation. The houses also, are made from the volcanic rock as are the surrounding walls and the terraces.
The soil is clearly fertile, feeding the crops, anything from vegetables, to vines, but also the wild plants - a wonderful growth of colour is every where. The roads are of extremely poor quality in many places. We come across many small settlements of the main road serviced with at times a "track" made of rock and small stones. The lane shown above (centre photograph) serviced about ten houses at "Punta Di Nica" and a sign posted "beach", obviously mainly of black rock, not the sand as we would know it.
It is clearly a very different way of life here, once, out of the town, no shops, pubs, the island appears to be serviced also by central rubbish collection areas. Periodically one sees a number of closed, plastic skips. Residents deposit their rubbish and these areas, they are then emptied periodically, no "dustmen at you door here!"
The island has a quaint attraction, nothing is locked, everything is relaxed, we come to one point of the coast line, offering excellant protection from the ongoing gales, a small freighter anchors, surrounded by working fishing boats. We make our way slowly around to the east of the island to "Cala Levante" it's cove very picturesque dominating the back drop. We decide to head down to check out the settlement, the roads are good so no issue there.
It is a small coastal settlement, a dive shop (purchase, or rental of equipment) and a cafe. We walk around, then deciding to have a coffee we go into the cafe, the proprietor speaks quite good English and seems to enjoy the practice. He has been to London several times, his arm is in a sling, he explains he came off a scooter and has broken his shoulder and needs an operation? He explains that he is awaiting the opportunity to fly to Sicily for the operation as they cannot do it on the island? This for us brings you down to early with a bang - emergencies can be air lifted by helicopter, his shoulder is not an emergency. He still manages to serve our coffee - just as most would?
We decide to have dinner here, as we do so it is explained that the cost of property on the island is escalated and very much out of the reach of the younger generation just like every other country in the world. A further point making the situation worse is the fact that to build on the island is becoming more and more difficult, controlled by permits etc
As we start our lunch we are joined in the restaurant by another English couple, also stranded on the island, but for a different problem - he is a pilot, the flights are cancelled due to the strong winds. We say our goodbyes and head for Lago, we soon arrive at the lake only to be told where the mud is by one of the locals, and guess what - it has been dried by the strong winds. It is covered in a yellow crust, thought we would give it a miss?
The gentleman tells us to try the "Natural Sauna, Grotto Bosro Ascutto" up on Montagna Grande - off we go. The journey continues to be interesting, the views breath taking, not truly reflected in the photographs, rom the top, one can see either side of the island.
We find the Grotto with relative ease, with only a few hundred yards to be completed by foot. The cave is indeed a natural sauna, filled with steam generated from the active aspect of the volcano.
There is no means of showering or bathing so we briefly explore it but spend little time in it. There is another part to it, probably showers as it does have an uncovered area to change but it is locked. The tourist season has not yet begun?
Log Entry Sunday 16th May - Porto Pantelleria
The island is of volcanic origin, approximately 15 miles long by 8 miles wide. To it's centre stands the 836m high dormant volcano Montagna Grande, it is surrounded by numerous extinct volcanic craters. It' soil therefore is of volcanic origin, fertile and to the south can be seen the typical stepped, terrace areas for cultivation down the hillsides to accommodate vine and market gardens etc. The gales hit at midnight Friday as forecast, there will be with us for a couple of days, soon the sea builds and begin breaking over the sea wall.
Sailaway is secure along side a fishing boat, the wind catching our mast and pushing us off the adjoining vessel, the fisherman have left their boat so we are unsure when they intend to move again? To get ashore we have to pull Sailaway close too, climb aboard the fishing boat and make our way along a narrow ledge (less than a shoe width) holding on to a guard rail above. We make our way to the stern of the boat, climb across it and up onto the harbour - keeps us fit!
Sailaway is continuously sprayed with salt water as it comes over the top of the wall, the spray carries a fine black sand obviously derived from the volcanic rock. One can imagine how she looks, and of coarse without fresh water we cannot wash her down properly. Ann has to make do with washing her down with sea water? We have no facilities at all where we are, but, one cannot really complain as our berth is free and we are quite "self sufficient!"
The "Castle of Pantelleria" dominates the town, it is said to date back to the 12th century with the usual modifications over time. The harbour area which the town fronts on to is called "Porto Vecchio", in the past a wall has collapsed and dominates the water area, many small boat moorings are laid, but yet unused - too early yet? A local boat yard is full on trip boats, ready to be launched for the tourists. The old harbour offers little protect from the north, three sail boats, two English chose to tie up along side the north pier - we have a look, the swell they are subjected too is quite violent. We definitely chose the correct are to berth.
We walk around the water front, it is complete with usual cafes and restaurants as one would expect. We buy some fruit from one of the local stores, we have eaten little fruit for the last month as the quality was extremely poor in Tunisia - here it is good! We also buy some fish for our dinner from one of the stalls - must be fresh! I clean it and we eat it on a bed of cous cous and mushrooms, we have taken a serious like to cous cous.
Log Entry Friday 14th May - We arrive at the Isola Pantelleria (Italy).
Having removed the Tunisian flag, we raised, once again the Italian flag!
We make our way into the small harbour, it has no real facilities as it is a port, with small cargo, a regular ferries to Sicily & Tunis, fishing craft and small local craft - we make our way to a section of the harbour called "Porto Nuovo", it offered more shelter, a due consideration with the approaching bad weather system.
The area was a little confusing as it had been changed significantly from the information we have, a number of vessels where "rafted up" against the harbour wall. We recognise one boat instantly (Sylvain, Amelie and their children), we shout over to Sylvain to enquire as to how the harbour works, is there any one in charge? We are then beckoned over by a fishing boat to tie along side, we are too large to tight up on the end of either one of the rafts of visiting boats. We tie up with both the assistance of the fishermen and Sylvain, as we do so we then recognise the sailboat on the end of the raft, "Preban (Peter, in English) and Dolores", we had met them in Cagliari (Sardinia) last year. Once tidied up we join them for a couple of drinks, they had arrived a couple of days ago have spent the last year in Tunisia.