IX - Sicily, Italy.
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VII - The Peloponnese II.
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X - Sicily II, Italy.
Log Entry Sunday 13th September - Peter's week is over, time to say goodbye till next year!
Well, Peter's week has passed, we were up early this morning to drive him up to Catania for his flight, we bid our farewells, parting words "I wonder where we will meet next year?"
Log Entry Saturday 12th September - The long awaited trip to Mount Etna.
We had been watching the weather all week for this trip, obviously the better the weather of the day, the better the experience! The drive was about two hours to the north, roads good, it all starts at Rifugio Sapienza apparently, first a cable way from 1910m to 2920m.
We arrived at Rifugio Sapienza, and parked up, we had already driven for a couple of miles through nothing more than black ash territory, sometimes without any vegetation, some areas with an abundance - I always though the ash was high in nutrients, must investigate? To us it was now very cold, as advised we changed into long trousers and fleeces. High above us stood Etna, individuals were climbing the large black masses towering above our heads. I caught this lady on camera, clearly from the north east of England and under the believe that there is a bar or night club at that particular summit?
Rifugio Sapienza, is effectively a Visitors Centre, a large carpark at the base of the cable car station, surrounded with gift shops, cafes and restaurants.
When we got inside the station, you had various levels of fees for the trip going forward, starting with just the cable car ride up to the "trip in the off road buses to the crater summit and a guide" for 63 euros per person. I must point out that the craters you are taken to, as we found out, were old craters, not at the summit of Etna - good marketing all the same, it caught us.
We climbed into the car and set off up the side of the mountain, some chose the more traditional method and walked the supporting dusty trail, dressed appropriately of coarse!
We climbed higher and higher, the drop off for the skiing slopes visible but clearly out of action due to the lack of snow. The vegetation again varying from nothing to extremely fertile.
We arrived at the drop off point, were guided through a cafe and gift shop to the "off road buses", we climbed aboard and began the ascent on the dusty, black, tracks, carved into the black terrain.
Eventually we began to climb in and through the settling layer of cloud, we passed people walking and cycling - they must have hearts like lions, good on them for having the fitness and the courage!
It was clear in time we were not ascending up the actual live Etna, crater, a little disappointing but understandable, health and safety and all that stuff! We arrived at the drop-off zone and left the buses, and appointed a guide, the tour began. I was unable to continue any further and was left with the buses, I felt like a naughty child being punished!
Ann and Peter continued up to the craters, said to be from the major eruption of 2010, they described the landscape as "like being on the moon!" as many other did.
They were shown a number of fishers, where warm gas was still discharging, plenty of activity hundred of meters below they are told.
Below they are able to see the dirt track created by the off road buses and vehicles, the same tracks run up to the summit of Etna. I read the signs that forbid movement further on behind the chains without a qualified guide. Some people ignoring them completely and making there own way in shorts and tee shirts towards Etna's summit.
In time they rejoined me, sitting nearby, a gentleman commented on my accent! We began chatting, he was a guy I had dealt with over twenty years ago, Alan worked for one of the publications the Company I worked for at that time utilised! The mug shot above showed the three characters all from that similar era - frightening!
We climbed back into the buses and began our decent to the car, it had been an extremely interesting trip, a "must do!". Once back to the car we had made a promise to stop on the way down to look at a property, a previous casualty of many due to the 2010 eruption.
We stopped off as promised, the views quite amazing and the building and it's position quite chilling, the road along side it, clearly reopened but the property abandoned - you cannot over come the forces of nature, we are continuously reminded of that fact at sea!
Log Entry Friday 11th September - Another day out and about, no matter what the weather threatens!
The weather is unsettled generally, tomorrow is looking good for Mount Etna! We decide to utilise the car and head down to the south coast, to Pozzallo, a local beach resort. We pop down the market to the "Sandwich Genius" so he tells us, for our "pack lunch".
The gentleman is more of an entertainer than a sandwich maker, he plays the crowd and holds his audiences attention well. He appears to hold a certain size crowd to entertain, his speed of sandwich making clearly depends on the size of his cue?
I retire to seat over the square a couple of times as Ann & Peter stand in the cue awaiting their turn, I return periodically just to remind them that we may miss lunch he takes much more time? Still, we can have the sandwiches for dinner?
Eventually it's Ann & Peter's turn, they are served without a word in English spoken, I asked them directly "Did you get what your ordered?" That question could not be answered honestly, he just seemed to throw just about every thing in!
We then, eventually drove on to Pozzallo and had lunch on the beach promenade, the sandwiches were tasty, but seemed to contain just about everything. Great to watch a genius at work!
The resort appeared almost empty, the Italian main holidays finished last week, I pick a seat in one of the beach cafes, Ann & Peter wander off to see what else they can find?
The walk along the beach into the town was very similar to the beach - deserted, but interesting. When they returned, we climbed back into the car and made it back to Siracuse.
We had a boat trip of the "Grand Harbour, Otigia and nearby caves" was on our list of jobs to do, we had time before dinner, and not a drop of rain in sight, so, off we went on the one and a half hour trip.
The trip took us first up the canal towards the small harbour on the north side of town. We thought he was joking when the Captain told us to mind our heads under the bridges? He climbed up and dropped the sun canopy frame and warned us again to keep out heads down! We seemed to scrape through with inches to spare?
We ended up in the marina, he put back up the canopy and off we went into open water.
The trip was kept interesting as best the guy could with his understanding of English, his humour was good too! We turned north to find the caves said to stretch under the city.
Various key points were pointed out, Ann and I picked out our favourite dwelling - above, far left, but could not image how you would keep the windows clean of salt water?
The Captain took us into two sets of caves, interesting, colourful and carefully managed.
We then turned south, back down the coastline towards the Island of Ortiga.
Much time had been spent in the old town of Ortiga on foot, it was good to see it from a different perspective, Peter's hotel was positioned extremely central.
We made our way to the "Castello Maniace" that guarded the "Great Harbour" for centuries, we were talked through the local history and theories by the Captain.
Once turning into the harbour, the sheer size of the fortress was impressive.
We came to the close of the tour, Sailaway sitting in the western section of the "Grand Harbour", we returned to the harbour and thanked the Captain for the great tour.
Only one thing left to do before dinner, a couple of beers, before the short walk to the restaurant, another good day, not finished yet!
Log Entry Thursday 10th September - Better weather to the North West, off to "Villa Romana del Casale". (186)
Villa Romana del Casale (Emperor’s Villa at Cefalu) is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km (2 mi) outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world
It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive to the north west, we paid at the entrance barrier then down to the carpark, which was also an additional charge? The walk from the car to the Villa was through a shopping area, full of many stalls all selling the same trinkets! I must confess by now I was disappointed at the degree of commercialisation before we even got to the Villa. Once inside the Villa and with it's secrets in front of my very eyes my view changed to very positive, and full of admiration!
You are directed around what would have been the outside of the Villa, even passed the old bath rooms, then into the inside of what would have been the Villa itself.
You climb up a stairway, the tour around the inside it conducted from above each of the rooms, named after what is portrayed in the mosques below - fascinating!
I write no more till the end, scroll through the pictures, room by room and image the time, manpower and cost put into their creation.
I, in time went ahead to get off my feet and let Ann and Peter complete the tour, we went for coffee afterwards, they even had a musician to keep you in the mood!
It was then back to the car and return to Siracuse, nearby Piazza Armenian was another hilltop town, originally position as defence against invaders. Mount Etna, also on our list is to be visited soon, the most crucial place with regards to the weather, the clearer the day the better the views!
Once back to Siracuse, we park the car up easily now that we know how the system works, and onto our dinner venue, a long day. We were perhaps a little happier than the pictures portray?
What to do tomorrow?
Log Entry Wednesday 9th September - The storm continues, we remain on board Sailaway to ensure her security.
We received no calls during the night so we assumed Peter had kept himself out of trouble? We did receive a couple of messages proving he had perhaps over indulged during the evening - Ann was not happy a she has been counting his intake calories?
We had not had much sleep during the night, but, other than a couple of leaking windows to manage, all was good. We awoke to a break in the weather but a check on the forecast and a look to the west told us more was coming. We communicated again with Peter, he had a few things to visit in Ortiga, he was happy to keep himself occupied today. We planned to meet up later should the weather pass, but that looked very unlikely, it did not pass, in fact worsened as the day went on.
The winds blew strong all day, a number of the vessels relocated to the centre of the great harbour giving them enough room around themselves rather than "huddling" together around the shore?
At one point of the afternoon we were disturbed by the sound of a fog horn, we went up top to investigate. A catamaran, originally to the east of us was circling a French flagged vessel, it was dragging towards the shore, the Cat sounding a horn to gain the occupants attention. There appeared no one on board, the Cat dropped anchor and the couple aboard jumped into their own dinghy and boarded the distressed vessel, dropping as much chain as they dared! The vessel stopped and held position until the owners returned later that day, they were completely oblivious to there predicament other than they had dragged their anchor I guess? The first action once re boarding was to lift their anchor and return to the huddle they had dragged from? At least now they were on board?
We wondered if this couple from the Cat had saved Sailaway that day we dragged, I was to enquire the next morning but they had already left as we looked across - we will never know who saved Sailaway that day!
Log Entry Tuesday 8th September - Again, another day controlled by the weather, Museo Archeologico the choice of the day!
We made it ashore between the heavy showers, thunder and lightening, the whole of the island apparently having the same weather. Sheltered options had been researched to allow us to gain some insight into the island and it's culture. The Archeological Museum was the agreed choice of the day, agreed over our "cafe frappe's". The museum was a good kilometre away, so we waited for a break in the rain and then made our way up to the taxi rank.
The establishment was indeed sizable, the taxi driver, as usual very helpful, we paid the entrance fee and started at "Exhibition Hall A."
The interest found inside was amazing, dating back to centuries "BC", the vast majority of the artefacts seemed to be associated with burial grounds which had laid undiscovered for centuries. There was great reference to the historic periods, the type of graves, from a sealed cave to a decorative sycophancy and the associated findings, packed away for the after life!
There was so much to keep the mind occupied the hours flew by, to watch some of the items we use today develop over the centuries was amazing.
Ann even recognised a family resemblance in some of the decor and wondered is there was indeed, Sicilian blood in her veins?
We came out, it had clearly rained heavily and we now were experiencing heavy winds and squalls. We needed a taxi to get us back to base, so we called in a cafe for refreshments (and ice scream) the proprietor was more than willing to help our with the taxi. We returned back to the water front, the weather was worsening still, with worse to be seen coming from the west! We agreed that we would like to return to Sailaway between the down pours and sit the coming weather out on board, we said our farewells to Peter, who unfortunately would have to have dinner on his own if the weather persisted, and it did!
The weather came and worsened, boats were dragging their anchors around us, recovering and relocating, we sat tight this time. As the rain worsened, the boats around us disappeared from view, we sat for over an hour with zero visibility, waiting for some one to hit us, which never happened fortunetly!
Darkness fell and the storm continued, it would have been crazy to have tried to get ashore with the resulting waves irrespective of the rain - we left Peter to his own devices, hopefully he is able to keep out of jail for one night?
Tomorrow is another day, still, today was still, very interesting!
Log Entry Monday 7th September - A day in Siracuse, strong winds and electrical storms later today!
Our daily forecast review was a little unclear, depending where you looked depended what you were told, a degree of rain was almost certain at some point today but the very strong winds were only being indicated by the offshore forecasters, local said little or no wind which was a little hard to believe? The key point was that we appear to have some of the best weather in Sicily in this area, the strong winds do concern us with regards to Sailaway the holding here has been proven not to be the best!
We decide to stick around Siracuse and see how the day unfolds, it also allows us to give Peter his "bearing" as to where his hotel is situated, he also has a number of places on his "must see list!". We start in the usual place, the cafe off the harbour and plan out today, the market first. The produce is excellent we use it every other day especially for salad and fruit, fish too. We show Peter a sandwich kiosk claimed to be the best in the world - ran by a true showman, he retains his audience and sells sandwiches! It is too busy to try out today, we will return before Peter leaves to participate in the preparation which seems to be as much fun as the eating!
We cut back towards Peter's hotel, past the "Temple Apollo" a Greek structure, almost central to town.
We then head up to "Fontana di Artemide" one of the places on Peter's list, his hotel was only 300m off into the "Old Town/ Ortiga." We stop, have a coffee, then I remain while Peter and Ann walk off into the narrow streets of "Ortiga." I drink coffee and watch the weather deteriorate!
The first stop is "Piazza Duomo" in which sits "Chiesa S. Lucia alla Badia", then on, into the ancient district.
By know as I sit dry in my cafe, the guys are dogging the heavy showers and lightening, the weather is clearly worsening.
They began to make their way back through the network of narrow streets most too narrow for motor vehicles.
They come across "Fonte Aretusa" a fresh water source said to be critical for the production of papyrus, from local growth in ancient times, exported to Egypt.
They return to me in a sad, wet state, Ann covered in a pack away mack, Peter with his folding umbrella. We agree to break off for a few hours, dry out and regroup for dinner at 1900 hours.
That is what we did, the weather passed and we returned ashore, it was Sunday evening so we struggled to find somewhere open but succeeded in one of the Ortiga back streets, another fun evening!
Log Entry Sunday 6th September - Check the weather, off to Catania and Taormina.
We have a car for the week and an itinerary with regards as to what we would like to see, we are troubled by bad weather crossing over Sicily so each morning the plan was to review the weather forecast relating to the places we wish to visit. Today the weather is clearer to the north so it is off to Catania and then further north to Taormina.
The drive is straight forward enough, even on the wrong side of the road, parking is the issue! We found out last night, which had also been confirmed by the hire car company, legal parking is difficult, especially around town. White lines usually mean "anyone can park and pay", blue lines "permit parking only". The real issue is the lines are not always visible but guys make a living out of providing parking, from the tips they receive from the drivers they find spaces for. It does work, we drove around Siracuse last night for an hour, eventually found one of these guys who, for a euro found us a space! The same appears to work here, find the man and he finds you a space! It worked here for us too, we parked just along from the "acclaimed Fish Market", the Fish Market in Siracuse was far more substantial. From there we cut through a large archway into "Duomo Square".
The architecture within was very impressive and housed such as the "Cattedrale di Saint Agata", " Fontane del Elefante," and the " Fontana dell' Amenando". The "Ursino Castel ", another target, a museum was a good 500 metres off the square so I was left in a cafe and Ann and Peter set off!
The streets and architecture on route was very interesting, so much to attract the eye, some, literally dwellings.
Eventually reaching "Ursino Castel", predominantly a cultural museum, its structure impressive!
A great deal of interest inside, Ann was surprised how short the people of that particular period were?
The artefacts were as expected covering the various periods.
The guys returned to the cafe in the square, from there we made our way back to the car and Taormina, a further 30km to the north.
Taormina was originally one of the mountain top towns, built as such to provide protection against invaders, the drive up to it was quite impressive, the second issue was parking, this time we could not find a "man", all public carparks were full and a cue formed? We eventually found a rather grand hotel at the head of the village with parking spaces so I thought? I went inside and enquired, it was explained that the parking was not theirs, they could not use it. Any one that did use it was without permission, we had been driving around for quite some time so we parked up!
The town was very attractive, and extremely busy, we had driven through this small square a number of times looking for a place to park.
Making our way through the town, there was plenty to see, and keep your interest.
Each square we entered, was typically Sicilian and had held it's character, even with the numerous designer shops. Peter refilled his drinking water with the cool mountain spring water as everyone did.
The church, was the centre of the square as it had been for centuries, Ann lights a candle for her Mum!
We decide to walk no further than one of the towns gates, sunk into it's surrounding wall, the gates internal is well decorated.
Your exit the gate tower into another square, this one with three churches, one has a particular strange emblem over it's door - "Scull & Crossbones"?
The view from the square, gives you a great insight as to how high above sea level you are, and the protect that it's position had provided over the centuries, amazing!
Now time to make our way back to the car, with a cooling "gellato" of coarse! A mere two hours drive back to Siracuse, the only decision left for today is "Where do we eat dinner?" when we get back!
Log Entry Saturday 5th September - Peter arrives for his yearly visit.
Our friend Peter arrives from the USA, last year in joined us in Kas, Turkey. The difficultly with anchoring, or lack of allowable anchoring has pushed us to create a different type of plan for this trip. We would normally sail somewhere, explore and enjoy. This time due to the lack of anchorages, we have decided to hire a car and do the majority of visiting by road. Unfortunately Peter has brought a spell of bad weather with him, around mid-week we expect electrical storms and, as forecast today, gale force winds, the weather is beyond our control so we will have to work around it!
Log Entry Tuesday 25th August - A big thank-you to who ever came to Sailaway's assistance.
We had been here a number of days now, no issues, yesterday the afternoon wind built as it had did on previous days. We went ashore to pick up some bits and pieces, the trip in the dinghy being a "wet one" from the chop the wind had built. It was warm, we soon dried, ashore we could see the winds build further during the afternoon, but had no real concerns, seemed no different from yesterday?
We eventually left the quay to return to Sailaway, preparing ourselves for the soaking ahead, once out in the bay we realised that Sailaway was no longer where we had left her - she had dragged her anchor!
There is ongoing major rework to all of the town quay, also an extension to it on the north shore - Sailaway was now sitting some 200 meters from the steel piles that had been driven in by the construction company! The anchor appeared to have reset itself? As we boarded Sailaway, the drag alarm was sounding, we had already formulated our recovery plan and it went into action! Starting the engine Ann took to the anchor and we began lifting it to take Sailaway clear of the piles. As Ann does, she calls out the remaining section of anchor chain in the water for my information - her first call "45 meters to go!" confused me as we did not have that much out, I though she had just made an error? Taking the anchor out of the water Ann removes a section of old fishing net from the anchor - the cause of the problem?
We went back towards our original position and reset our anchor, Ann confirms some one has been on board from the position of the windlass cover, it had been removed and thrown into the chain locker?
To summarise, some kind, considerate person (a fellow boater) must have noticed Sailaway moving as her anchor dragged, boarded and emptied the entire anchor chain locker into the water. I plan to find this person to thank him/her personally, without their action Sailaway would have been driven onto the steel piles, who knows what damage that would have caused?
We never found that kind, considerate person.
Log Entry Saturday 22nd August - We arrive at Syracuse, Sicily, 4.5 days and 351 nautical miles later!
The trip did not start well, we had the mainsail repaired in Pilos, during the re-fitting I had crossed the reefing lines, we could not raise the mainsail fully. It was too choppy to resolve in open water so we returned into Órmos Navarinou and corrected the error in much calmer water - 2 hours lost, but things were now correct. The winds were forecast to be in the region of 10/15 knots throughout the trip, the north westerlies were actually westerlies but, we have started so we decided to finish! We took few photographs, not a lot to see in the middle of the ocean.
The coarse was somewhat of a guessing game, the wind direction was incorrect today, what would it be tomorrow? Our first day we made good ground on a southwesterly coarse. We had decided to sail as much as possible, a couple of knots of speed was enough to keep that blasted engine off - we had nicknamed this trip "Our mini Atlantic crossing". Of coarse at times the wind disappeared and batteries required charging so the engine had to be used periodically.
The hours turned into days, we managed the sails to give the best coarse possible based on the best guess of the wind direction of the next day, the winds stayed westerlies for three days and nights - we would not have left Pilos if this had been forecast. The strength of the wind was usually no where near 10/15 knots, 5/10 knots mostly if that? The Navtex was showing thunder storms and gales (F7) to the north and west of Sicily, but they were days away from us? We continued on, but formulated plans "B & C" if such winds were to hit us - as it turned out they never did, but at least we were ready!
On our forth day we had a misty view of Sicily ahead of us, we exchanged the courtesy flags, Greek to Italian and plodded on towards Syracuse.
We were last here Saturday 12th June 2010, we left Sailaway here for 6 weeks and we returned to the UK following death of my father.
We made our way into the busy anchorage, as we do, we set ourselves clear of all others over in the northwest area of the bay. We had been at sea for 4.5 days, our average speed for the whole trip was only 3.4nm per hour, but a good experience, Sailaway did well in the very light winds and brought us here safely once again. We now needed to catch up on sleep having worked a shift system for the trip.