Where the wind blows, that will be the way we go. 

170724 1 Jan and Lee arriving from Palmero on a very hot late train170725 8 Day 1 Swordfishing Spada boat in Strait of Messina

The 24th of July saw our next friends Jan and Lee Langford from Australia arrive on board Katherine rather hot and pleased to be off the train that had delivered them from Palermo. The plan for their stay was to sail from Cap Di Orlando back to the Aeolian Islands and around the west corner of Sicily to Tipari where we would leave them to make there way back to the airport to depart on the next leg of their journey. Sounded like a really good plan until the wind blew from the west. Plan B then replaced Plan A so we headed east to the Mesina Straits instead, down the east coast of Sicily and ultimately to Malta. Like we said, where the wind blows looks like a good idea to go. 

170726 1 anchorage between Taormina and Naxos

Jan and Lee’s first sail onboard Katherine was an impressive one, around 90 miles in 9 hours. Initially winds blew to twenty knots then settled to a solid 15 just off the nose of the boat giving us good speed. As we approached the Strait of Messina, a passage of not more then 1 1/2 miles wide, separating Sicily from Italy, the wind funnelled through gusting to 25 knots, and the water boiled with the tidal flow. 

Just inside the strait we got our first glimpse of the Swordfish boats peculiar to this area. The swordfish have always “run” through this area and so a particular boat has been developed by the local fishermen to catch them as they apparently “sleep” close to the surface during the day. The boats have a large steel mesh mast on top of which is perched a platform from which the boat can be steered and the fish spotted. Off the bow of the boat is a bowsprit with harpoon apparently often longer than the boat itself. From their high perch the unsuspecting fish can be spotted, crept up upon and harpooned. The boats we read only come out in fine weather - obviously what is considered “ fine" is open to interpretation as for us it was blowing way too hard to be perched so precariously high.

170726 2 Helicopter landing anchorage between Taormina and Naxos

Our first two nights on anchorage were in the bay of Naxos below the town of Taormina that we had only just recently driven through in the company of Corinne and Francoise. The anchorage was far calmer then the tourist chaos on land despite a large number of boats on anchor around us of all sizes, including one, complete with helicopter that we got to witness landing. 

170729 7 Leaving Pt Etna Mt Etna in the background

The town of Riposto with Mt Etna dominating the background

170727 1 The port area of Riposto  Port Di Etna locals card game

170727 14 The port Riposto  Port Di Etna Fruit market stall

From Naxos we continued onto Port De Etna in the town of Riposto. As the name implied the harbour is the closest to the volcano and commands a good view. When the lava was flowing from the volcano which was as recently as March of 2017 it would have been an impressive sight to behold from the marina. The port area of this town seems to have missed out on being affected by tourism aside from the few visiting boats in the harbour. Along the streets each evening gentleman played cards, an elderly lady watched the passing parade of cars and people from her front porch, whilst merchants sold fruit vegetables and fish from the curb side, some literally from the backs of their vehicles.

170728 10 Tour Mt Etna Looking like a luna landscape

The barren lava landscape of Mt Etna 

170728 6 Mt Etna Gondola Ride Lee Jan and Lee

We spent one day driving to Mt Etna the highest active volcano in Europe at a height of 3329m. Here we joined the throng of tourists who took the gondola to an altitude of 2500m then transferred to a Unimog (4x4 Bus) to be taken further up the volcano to the distance that was on this day deemed safe. Here a local guide took us on a 40 minute walk around the craters. The scenery was very much what one could imagine it would be like being on the moon, a barren, grey lava flow landscape with steam rising from vents. Very different experience and skiing here in winter would certainly be unique. Though an impressive scene unfortunately the night show by Stromboli overshadowed the experience of Mt Etna. 

170730 9 Young Busker Duoma Plaza Syracuse

Young Busker Syracuse 

170731  8 Seafood dinner courtesy of syracuse Market

Next port of call Syracuse. We were very happy to call back into this town and experience it arriving from the sea. We chose to sit on anchor here where the afternoon seabreeze gave some relief from the intense heat that was gripping all of Europe. We made sure we called into the market and stocked up on the fresh seafood. The resulting dish Andrew cooked up tasted as good as it looked!

From Syacruse we left Sicily and arrived into the island of Gozo Malta. This small island around 5km north west of Malta is home to around 37000 Gozitans. As we learnt quickly people from Gozo consider themselves definitely separate to Malta. Here we circumnavigated the island on a Hop On Hop off bus, taking in sites such as the citadel in Rabat, the Ggantija Temple ruins, and eating lunch in the pretty port of Marsalforn. 

170802 13 Sunset Looking across Grand harbour to Vittoriosa Yacht Marina

Looking towards Vittoriosa Harbour Birgu from Valletta

170802 11 Traditional Taxi  Grand harbour

A leisurely day of anchoring down the coastline of Malta saw us arrive into Grand Harbour Malta in late afternoon. What a difference to the relaxed nature of Gozo. Cruise ships lined up against the impressive fortressed walls, tourists boats circumnavigating the harbour endlessly, and then there was the glorious sound of cannon fire every morning at 8am, noon and 8pm. The marina was situated in Birgu opposite the busy centre of Valletta, which could be easily accessed by the traditional taxi boats for two euro. 

170803 5 middle level Holy of Holies Chamber  hal saflieni Hypogeum postcard

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum Postcard Photo - Middle Level

Lee Langford had hoped to secure tickets for "The Hypogeum” in Malta but we initially discovered it was sold out until mid September. We were very grateful for the tip from American Express to secure “ as minute” tickets whilst in Gozo the day prior. Only 80 people a day are allowed into this underground burial temple that was first discovered in 1902 in an effort to assist in its preservation for the future. 

170803 4 RMain Chamber middle level hal saflieni Hypogeum postcard

"The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a complex made up of interconnecting rock-cut chambers set on three distinct levels. Earliest remains at the site date back to about 4000BC, and the complex was used over a span of many centuries, up to c. 2500 BC.” Malta Heritage. 

We have seen over the last six years of travelling many “old significant sites” but this was something very special. The engineering that was achieved in the depths of darkness so long ago was remarkable. As were the sculptures and artwork that were extracted from the site. We were very pleased that Lee had done her research and put this on the list as a place to visit. 

(Photo from Postcard)

170803 15 Heading Home

Friday 4th August after the discovery of a few nice restaurants and wandering the local streets of Birgu Malta, Jan and Lee headed off to continue their holiday in Turkey. It had been a great 12 days travelling together with an itinerary that had literally unfolded with the wind. 

(For more photos)

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain