23 August, 2007

Sicily an Update


The history of Sicily goes back to 1400BC when the first wave of people took a liking to this island strategicly placed in the centre of the trade routes from west to east. After the original tribes had established themselves they were overrun by the Greeks who where challenged by the Carthaginians but they were run out of town in 480BC and the influence of the Greek Magna Graecia took over and built some great temples on the island. The city of Syracusa on the east coast sided with the Romans and much of the Greek architecture was destroyed.

Rome's influence declined and the Arabs and then the Normans back from the crusades arrived. Roger had a great influence and built some magnificent churches with Jesus as the central theme. Cefalu and Monreale are the best examples. The latter rivals the best the Catholics could build in Rome.

The Mafia is said to have influenced the life of every Sicilian but for the cruiser one can only see the positive results of development.

Aeolian Islands

We left Tropea in Italy early in the morning to sail eastwards for the volcanic island of Strompoli. The wind was kind to us but as we neared the island it can straight on the nose so we had to motor onto the lee of the volcano which was giving off smoke and gas. It has the classic conical shape but unlike Mana in Vanuatu you are not able to climb to the craters edge. The island rises out of the depths and there is no place to anchor. We tried to anchor in 40m of water with lots of chain but as the wind came up and it grew dark the anchor pulled out. We picked up a mooring buoy. A yacht and a catamaran did the same, then spent almost an hour pulling stern to stern so that the crew could share their evening meal. What an effort.

At 4:00 we dropped the mooring and set sail anticlockwise round the island to see the red glow of the volcano as it released the pressure into its crater forming the famous "lighthouse of the Mediterranean". We did not see the glow only a dull grey cloud over the summit - in the dark and as the sun rose. Well you just cant trust these Italian navigation marks.

We then head south to the islands of Panarea, Salina and Lipardi on route for the safe anchorage on Vulcano. The scenery through these volcanic island with their weather and wind eroded rocks is very dramatic but one has to keep a sharp look outt for "above and below water rocks". We pulled into the crowded anchorage on the east of Volcano right in the wash area of the numerous ferries that stop here. Not a great place but relatively safe. On Sunday evening the charter and weekend boat left and the bay was left to the long term cruisers.

The volcano dominates this anchorage and small town supporting the many people who come here to climb to the top of the crater. On the edge of the bay there are hot springs and mud pools with the usual fat bodied tourist expecting some miraculous cure from coating themselves in the evil smelling ooze. At some points the sea water was hot as the water bubbled up from underground but you had to seek out the spot and the ferry wash soon disturbed the convections.

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