The Northern Ionian…..17 years on

It’s great to be back! Back writing the blog and back in Greece.

My first yachting experience was when Mike and I, with friends, chartered a boat in Corfu and sailed most of the Northern Ionian. That was 17 years ago and there has been a lot of water under various keels since then, but none of it in the Ionian so the three and a half weeks we spent there in June of this year was a brilliant experience, noting the similarities and the changes, reliving old memories and creating new ones.

On leaving Preveza on 8th June we sailed 35 miles north to Mongonisi at the southern end of Paxos….

….. and it was here that we quickly came to realise that one of the biggest changes is in the number of charter boats and, more evidently, the number of flotillas. Anchorages which 19 years ago may have had two or three boats in them are now crammed with boats, some rafted together, or berthed on jetties which didn’t used to be there. The anchorage on the north of Paxos, which remains one of the most beautiful, is a prime example.

Reading some of the threads on forums aimed at “liveaboards” it is clear that this influx of boats is considered, by many, to be a bad thing. Indeed, at times it felt that the only way to get a decent spot was to turn up before 2pm [or even earlier in some places] but, looking at it from the Greek point of view – surely it has to be a good thing. For a country which depends highly on tourism it has to help with their economy. It also encouraged us to go to places we hadn’t been before and find small towns on the mainland which, at least for now, are largely off the flotilla route. Additionally, we are happy to anchor so we don’t need a berth and since flotillas seem to go mainly to places with harbour walls, quays or jetties, then being willing to anchor off makes it less of an issue.

Whilst on Paxos we took the time to walk into Gaios…

….. a small town popular with tourists staying there or arriving by ferry on day trips from Corfu or Parga.

A channel runs between the town and the island of Agios Nikolaos, wide and deep enough for boats to pass through but only a few available berths.

An anchorage at the south end of the channel looked promising in north winds ….

…. but, after walking back to Mongonsi via a drinks stop…..

Couldn’t pass this one without stopping for a drink….!

View of the south Gaios anchorage from the taverna

….. we found, on moving to it, that it was very lumpy and rolling so we sailed across to mainland Parga instead.

It was on this trip across that we encountered something else which we hadn’t remembered from our previous trip – fairly strong winds and resultant waves.

Our memory was of little or no wind and lots of motoring and, indeed there were days just like that in June this year….

Beautiful blue calm….

Time to pull the sails in methinks….

…..but there were also big wind days which was great for getting the sails out except, of course, the wind – as all sailors know – always seems to be on the nose whichever way you are wanting to go!!!

More surprising weather wise were the number of thunderstorms occurring. Whilst they are to be expected in early spring and late autumn they aren’t reported as a feature to anticipate from May to end September. However, here we were in June watching clouds mass over the mainland and sometimes the islands and sheltering from the odd raindrop.

A little rain… a little wine.

Paxos rainbows

In fact we continued to dodge storms right through the summer – and there will be more about that in later blogs. For now, I will just echo what was said to us by a very pleasant woman we spoke to in one of the Lefkas chandleries… “Greece is now almost Tropical. Its hotter and we get heavy rain and thunder throughout the summer. We have been careless with the planet and it is probably too late to change it”. It would be nice to think that countries are now much more aware and that we could at least halt the change even if we can’t reverse it… but I fear she may well be right.

Parga Town hadn’t changed much, though Valtou Bay/beach was a complete shock. When we first visited there was one taverna at “The Yacht Club”. Now the whole of the bay is full of hotel complexes and restaurants.

Voltou beach anchorage

As my sister said “Better that they spoil that beach than the town itself” and, to be fair, other than a few more restaurants and shops lining the climb to the castle on the town side it remains a pretty, if very popular, place to spend some time.

Parga town from the castle… more clouds gathering

We also revisited a couple of places at the NE end of Corfu….

The Durrells “White House”, Kalami

 

Agni… our first anchorage 17 years ago

…. but this time also anchored at Corfu Town.

Dramatic…. beneath the castle

Wandering round we managed to find some out of the way back streets…

 

 

 

…which gave us much more of a feel of the real town which lies behind the castles and elegant pavements and buildings which most people see. Of course we saw those too….

Classic arcade

Palace of St Michael and St George… houses the museum of Islamic Art

… and found a small garden at the seaward end of the Palace in which were two very different but eye-catching sculptures.

“Towers of Time”,,, by Katherine Wise

Corfiot War Memorial

Between Parga and Corfu town we had zig zagged across the stretch of the Ionian which separates the Greek mainland south of Albania and Corfu Island and this enabled us to visit two new, to us, mainland anchorages…..

Platarias

Sayiadha

Local boats … Sayiadha

….. and one towards the SE end of Corfu.

Petriti

We loved them all, particularly Petriti which we visited again later.

“Owl and Pussycat” in the anchorage

Most astonishing was our entry to Sayiádha. The photograph below shows us somewhere between one and two miles out….

This was the depth.

It stayed like that almost to the anchorage itself where we anchored in 2.8m. It was fairly similar off Petriti where shoal water extends about a mile to the north and half a mile to the east of the Cape.

When planning the places to visit I really wanted us to go to the islands to the north of Corfu. 17 years ago it was difficult to get to them in a charter boat due to the, then, uncertain relationship between Greece and Albania. To the good, all of that has changed and small and large boats now ply the waters regularly. There are three larger islands in the group, Orthoní, Erikoússa and Mathraki, though the very small harbour on the latter isn’t really suitable for “Owl and Pussycat” and the surrounding reefs and numerous above and below water rocks all around the island put us off attempting that. Erikoússa and Orthoní read as being eminently possible and on 16th June we sailed north and west from Kalami to Erikoússa. I say sailed!! In reality, having waited until the wind started to get up around 11am we hoisted both main and genoa only to find that as soon as we rounded the NE tip it dropped. We tried going more north to get some breeze and managed another 30 minutes of sailing but that just resulted in 30 minutes being added to the overall journey time as we had to make it up when we finally gave up and made direct for the island. Ah well.

Erikoússa was a gem.

Upon arrival we went ashore to explore and saw a map which detailed a 12km walk….

…. which of course we had to do the following morning.

The islands that got away…..

Looking back to the anchorage

We walked to the top for this!!!

 

Didnt expect this….

Lovely, even though it did involve several ups and downs… certainly more than expected on an island described as being difficult to spot from the sea due to its low lying nature!

However, less lovely had been the rolling we had done during the night and, from our vantage point in the restaurant drinking a well-earned beer at the end of the walk we could see that nothing had changed. So, it was decision time. Stay another night and hope it calmed down, move to Orthoní which is even more liable to ground swell or retreat to Corfu. Much as I would have liked to visit another out of the way place the thought of a second disturbed night wasn’t high on my list of priorities so it was back to Kalami because our first choice of Corfiot anchorage, Agios Stefanos, was full by the time we got there [19.15].

Heading south again, Lefkas was our next stop. Although we had been to the island in 2001 we hadn’t spent much time in Lefkas Town. We certainly remember the canal…..

North of the bridge…possible to berth there… but boats sank during the recent “Medicane Zorba”

… and vaguely remember stopping for some provisions but not for the night. This time we stayed three nights on the town quay. Although we believe it is possible to anchor between the harbour and the marina we only saw a couple of boats do it and, then, only for one night. The other choices – if you want to overnight – are the marina at approx. €80 per night for a 49’ boat or the town quay at approx. €12 per night. No contest as far as we were concerned.

The Lefkas canal is a very busy stretch of water and boats queue early to make their way slowly towards the bridge which opens hourly. As you can imagine the early morning opening times are the most popular for boats heading north and we enjoyed watching the 9.00 and 10.00 “musters” as boats juggled for position in the queue.

It certainly doesn’t pay to be late. The bridge operator starts to close the bridge whilst the last couple of boats are still going through. Anyone entering the channel at the actual appointed bridge opening time would be very unlikely to make it as it takes a good 15 minutes up the channel at the pace allowed and only about 10 minutes for the boats to pass through once the gate has opened – and that’s on a busy day. The afternoon we passed from north to south it only took about five minutes for the five of us going one way and an approximate equal number the other.

Something else it would not be wise to do is try to get a berth anywhere in Lefkas Town on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The marina is a huge charter base with most of its 630 berths used for that purpose and therefore very busy during hand over days. The west wall of the north canal at the town end, which boats are able to tie to, is also used at weekend for more flotilla turnarounds. We had arrived on the Thursday so were not fighting for the few spaces available when any boats left the town quay over the weekend.

We had already decided that we weren’t going to take the boat to the south coast anchorages of Vasiliki and Sivota which we had enjoyed on our previous Ionian trip – mainly because we wanted to start heading east to the mainland and the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth. But, we did decide it might be nice to see them again and to explore the interior of the island which we have learned, over the years, that we enjoy doing. So, we hired a car for the day and off we went.

Whilst the two southern harbours were as lovely as we remembered them, the highlight of the day was the highest village on the island – Englouvi.

Kafeneon time….

….for a refreshing frappe

Time seems to have stood still here – though the displayed photographs on a billboard poster near the square demonstrated that whilst some activities seemingly never change, the people doing them do.

Churches were also a major feature….

Englouvi

Chortata

Lefkas Town

A “typical” interior

…and the views quite stunning.

Looking towards Meganisi

Something else that doesn’t seem to have changed in Greece anywhere near like to the extent it has in other parts of Europe is Health and Safety. We have seen people swinging from unstable ladders, electricity connections which no HSE inspector would pass as fit in the UK, playgrounds with no “soft matting” and have visited ruins where in other countries metal waist level bars or ropes would have been placed to stop people from falling or even, in some cases, entering. Perhaps the most interesting thing we saw was this guy balancing on a thin wooden beam to fix some fairy lights in a bar.

Earthquakes in 1948 and 1953 resulted in Lefkas Town losing much of its Venetian architecture. Though some older buildings do remain standing…

…. most streets are now lined with “quake proof” constructions vaguely resembling those often found in the Caribbean.

The remainder of our time in the Ionian was spent at places not previously visited. Although we had been to the small island of Meganisi we had not anchored in Ormos Abeleke or walked inland which we did this time.

Spartochori

Spartochori anchorage

The two islands of Kalamos and Kastos were extremely quaint and picturesque and exactly what you imagine if someone says “small Greek island”.

Walking up to the bakery…Kalamos

Looking back to the inner harbour, Kastos

Inner harbour, Kastos

Old official building…. housed the [closed] port authority

View from the windmill bar, Kastos

Following our arrival at Kalamos we spent two or three hours watching charter boat after charter boat and flotilla after flotilla arrive to shelter from a forecasted two night blow.

Fighting for priority in the harbour

More queuing outside

It’s amazing how many boats “George” managed to organise into some semblance of order that day….

Thats it… harbour full

……though he certainly reaps the benefit of his labours as at least 75% of crews eat at his restaurant.

We were in the anchorage just outside the harbour and, as only two other boats were there to share it, we had lots of space to put 60m chain out and therefore spent two very pleasant nights waiting for the weather to calm. A lovely anchorage, as was Kastros…

 Our mainland stops were made at Palairos and Astrakos. We particularly enjoyed the former because of the upper town with a couple of traditional Ouzeries……

…. and an old fashioned barbers shop.

Next to the harbour was a small town square where there was a brilliant Gyros restaurant… so redolent of a classic local Greek restaurant at its best ….

….and where even the complimentary Meze included meat, French fries and tzatziki.

Unfortunately we had broken one of our cardinal rules and succumbed to the “sales patter” of a restaurateur we had met whilst strolling along the beach earlier and booked a table there.

Regardless of this mistake we had an enjoyable evening and there was nothing wrong with the view…

… and we found time to stop in the square again and watch as the local children played safely and freely as they seem to do everywhere in Greece whilst their parent “promenade” or drink coffees and eat ice-creams with their friends.

The latter, Astrakos, was a real surprise.

It was the second place since Preveza that we had gone onto a quay – the other 21 nights having been at anchor. Not only was it free to berth there, the water and electricity were also free – though in the event we availed ourselves of neither. We just made an appropriate friend!

We really enjoyed the small working town and found a restaurant serving something we hadn’t previously seen in Greece. Maybe some people won’t want to see the next photograph, but I have to say it tasted very good.

As you know we love eating and drinking and finding interesting shops or markets is always a pleasure. Markets per se seem few and far between – particularly in the islands, which is perhaps not surprising as many of them, especially the smaller ones, basically close down during the winter months. But somehow we always seem to be able to sniff out some good produce.

Beautiful veg from a lovely shop

Famous Lefkas sausage

Wine from the barrel

I am always keen to photograph wildlife and, once again the northern Ionian did not disappoint.                

   

A cicada… in case you didn’t know 

          And, finally, because I mentioned Lakka in the context of crowded but beautiful anchorages, I didn’t get the chance to include this photograph of a framed letter we saw attached to a wall there. Nothing else I have read about Paxos mentions a visit by him but who am I to say this is not genuine… and maybe some of you have information which confirms it so.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/10/29/the-northern-ionian-17-years-on/

The Straits of Messini and the Gulf of Amvrakia

Following our sail past Stromboli [how could you ever forget that scintillating photograph at the end of the last post!] we headed south and slightly east towards Scilla at the northern end of the Straits of Messina. Timing is everything with the Straits. If you get wind, tide or current – or, heavens above, all three – wrong then it can be a bit of an uncomfortable trip, at best!

We had downloaded the App for our Android phone – look for “Correnti Stretto di Messina” on Google play or, I assume, something similar for i.phone/i.pad – which enabled us to select the best time in respect of tides and currents and used this in conjunction with “Windyty” – our favoured wind App – to work out our passage. It transpired that, on Thursday 31st May, between 6am and 8am was the best time to enter and we timed our approach pretty perfectly.

Dawn broke as we approached Scilla….

…..and at 6.30am we cleared our transit with the Vehicle Traffic Scheme. We had elected the mainland side of the Straits as we were heading east and didn’t want to have to deal with the “roundabout” half way down the straits which the ferries use to cross between mainland and Sicily.

Having read some threads on various sailing forums we were very wary of coming into close proximity of either the above mentioned ferries or the swordfish fishing boats which ply these waters between mid-March and late June. Maybe some people do have bad encounters but all I can say is that the pilots of both these types of vessel were well aware of us and although they came close – sometimes very close in the case of the fishing boats…

Swordfish fishing boat in the Straits with Sicily in the background

…. we never felt as though they were intimidating us or expecting us to give them special right of way in the designated small shipping lane.

Of course, it does help having an AIS transponder to have prior warning of who and what might be coming your way.

My sister’s new favourite piece of boat equipment!

The swordfish boats are a sight to behold – fascinating. These are the modern motor boats with huge lattice steel masts and massive bowsprits up to 50ft long…..

…a far cry from the original wooden boats with a 10ft mast for the lookout, four rowers and a chap on the bow with a hand held harpoon.

In the channel we encountered one fairly strong counter current but it didn’t last long and having passed through the narrowest part of the Straits Mike turned the engine off and we had a pleasant sail for a while round Capo dell’Armi and along the southern coastline….

Not much to see…. a few hamlets with fishing boats pulled up the beach

……until it bent north at Capo Spartivento….

Capo Spartivento lighthouse

…… whilst we retained our more north-easterly heading towards Preveza.

At around 2am we were about 40 miles south of Capo Rizzuto when we were beset by waves coming from two or three directions – or so it felt. Very much a “being in a washing machine” effect which rolls the boat in a most uncomfortable manner. We decided to go with the strongest wave on our stern quarter which meant turning about 30 degrees to the south. We were now heading more towards Cephalonia or Zákinthos – but at least it was still Greece!

Fortunately after riding this for around three hours we cleared the worst of it and turned once more for Preveza. Having entered Greek waters at 6pm on 1st June, our final [third] night proved calm and uneventful and at 11.55am on 2nd June we entered the Preveza channel.

Marinas ahead – we didn’t investigate them – popular over winter storage

We chose to anchor immediately north of the town in Ormos Vathy – a splendid anchorage…

….with an easy dinghy ride to the small fishing harbour to access the shore.

We had chosen Preveza as our Greek Port of Entry partly because it seemed like an obvious route from the Messina Straits and also because other sailors had reported on Noonsite/Captain’s Mate etc that the process was fairly simple in Preveza with easy access to all authorities. That proved absolutely correct. Having arrived on a Saturday we couldn’t actually do anything until Monday because the bank was closed but as EU citizens – just! [DAMN Brexit and what chaos it might create – but that’s a rant for whatever and whenever it happens!] – we had no immigration or transit log issues and all we needed was the DEKPA [basically, a permission to be in Greek waters which must be renewed annually and produced whenever asked for by the relevant authorities].

First thing Monday morning we got the DEKPA application form from the tourist office, paid our €50 at the bank and went to the Port Authority. An extremely professional and competent Port Officer helped us to fill in the necessary paperwork and very quickly we were properly processed. The one and a half hour wait at the bank for our ticket number to come up was a bit of a pain – but that’s just how banks are in Greece.

Over the weekend we had had time to explore Preveza Town – and what a surprise. I think I expected a “typical” port town – a bit dingy and a bit dusty and no real Greek feel. Completely the opposite. The harbour front had a nice promenade and once into the backstreets it was full of old buildings…..

……quaint…

….very clean….

…with wonderful café’s and restaurants….

On the Sunday morning with, seemingly, the town to ourselves…

…we could explore further and came across one or two quirky things…

Our folding bikes are probably more sensible on the boat!

“Bootleg”!?

… and had all the fun of the empty fair.

Bad positioning Claire!!!!

We had decided that as the Gulf of Amvrakia lies directly behind Preveza we should explore. The pilot shows more than a dozen anchorages scattered round the Gulf but we chose to visit just two, the first being at the far end and so, with a 20 mile trip ahead we set out at 10am on 5th, in absolute flat calm.

“Path” leading away from Preveza in the background

As with much of the coastal Greek waters there are several fish farms to avoid …

… though we didn’t expect to pass a boat “graveyard”….

… or see a Pelican. [Yes, I know it’s almost as bad as Stromboli, but by the time I had worked out what it was it was some distance away!]

More birds awaited us ashore in Mendinhion…

Eurasian Magpie

“Hungry birds”!

The locals thought I was quite mad sitting on the pavement in the heat of the day trying to get a decent shot of the swallow fledglings.

Mendinhion itself was also a delight.

O+P at anchor

…and the small harbour – we could possible have gone stern to at the end

Very quiet with mainly local people and a few Greek tourists, passing through rather than staying. Let’s hope they at least stopped for an Ouzo – each of which, for just €3, came with fantastic Meze…

Meze 1- 3 types of seafood

Mmmm… Tzatziki and Chips.

When Mike started to raise the anchor to leave the following morning he called me to the bow and told me to bring my camera. All along the part of the chain which had been just below the waterline, and now fallen on deck, were tiny starfish.

We used the washdown pump to safely return as many to the sea as possible.

Two thirds of the way back up the Gulf was our second stop – Vónitza – where, once again, we chose not to go into the small town harbour but to anchor in what proved to be a very sheltered spot in lovely surroundings behind Nisis Koukounitsa.

By day…

…and all lit up at night.

The town was about a 20 minute walk away and had, atop the hill, a Venetian fort to visit.

Outer walls

Main gate

The church. Mike is supposed to be adding perspective to show the relatively low height of the door

Great views of the inland lagoon….

….and over the town quay to our anchorage

Whilst eating dinner on board that evening we were entertained by fishermen laying their nets in the bay….

 

….before being treated to our second glorious sunset in the Gulf.

Mendinhion sunset…..

….and sunset in Vonitza. Both lovely

The following morning we made an early start back to Preveza as we wanted a spot on the harbour to make provisioning a bit easier. Also, whilst I went to be pampered in the hairdressers, Mike sorted our Gas Bottle situation – we now have a Greek system [bottle and regulator] as well as a Spanish one and Camping Gas. Equipped for the world – until we get to the next place!!

All in all our re-introduction to Greece was brilliant and it was now time to explore the northern Ionian – but that’s for next time.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/08/10/the-straits-of-messini-and-the-gulf-of-amvrakia/

South Sardinia, Ustica and the Aeolians – all in three weeks

Early [6.15] on the morning of 9th May we left Mahon and the Balearics for the 200 mile crossing to Sardinia. Initially we headed south of the most direct route as our friend Steve’s magic passage programme had shown that we would get more wind and from a favourable direction that way. We didn’t! We gybed a few times and tried to keep to that plan but at about the point in the log where I wrote “another wind shift – bugger” we decided that we would be as well just going the shortest route rather than continuing to move further away from our destination.

We crossed from Spanish to Italian waters at around 1am on 10th and plodded on through the day picking up the odd friend, or three, along the way.

Our intention had been to make for the anchorage at Calasetta, on Isola di Sant Antioco, but I had spotted another anchorage which is marked on the pictorial chart of the San Pietro Channel in Heikells “Italian Waters Pilot” but which doesn’t appear on our Navionics chart and about which Heikell doesn’t actually refer to in the text of his book. However, our AIS showed that there were a couple of boats in there so we went for a look and found an absolutely brilliant anchorage just south of Punta Nera on the Isla di Santa Petro and, thus, just below the anchoring exclusion zone in the Straits.

In the end we spent three nights there with a night in Calasetta in-between, the last two nights being to shelter from some fairly strong N/NW winds – as we felt it was by far the best option other than, perhaps, spending two more nights in the marina.

The marina cost was very reasonable at €37 for the night and, as we wanted fuel, we had been directed to tie alongside on the nearby dock whilst another boat filled up. When we explained we wanted a night there as well they just let us stay side tied so there was no messing around with taking the dinghy off the back and med mooring. Great! With very helpful and friendly staff and a laundry which cost either €7 or €7.50 [wash and dry] depending on whether a light or heavy wash as required it was, all in all, a very good experience.

We also really liked the small town….

One of the main streets

Interesting church – with an apparent Greek influence

…. with its old “Torre Sabauda”…

…containing a small museum of Phoenician-Punic artifacts on the ground floor [originally the cistern]…

Some of the artifacts

The local priest who contributed to and encouraged the collection

….a wedding venue – should anyone want one for a small, select occasion – on the top floor and views from the rooftops.

Over the town to the northern part of the straits

The southern straits

The nights of 14/15 May were spent at Porto Teulada…

….and Porto Malfatano…

Sun rising at Malfatano as we left

….on Sardinia’s south coast from where we made the last hop to Cagliari – a total of 65 miles from Calasetta. Cagliari’s main site is “Il Castello”, the Citadel rising above the sturdy Pisan and Argonese ramparts.

In comparison to other citadels- notably those I wrote about when we visited Corsica – Cagliari’s is quite “scruffy”, but its ramshackle nature had its own charm and it was nice to see a less manicured version of an old hilltop fortress.

The Plaza, Santa Maria Cathedral and the Museo del Duomo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views from the top were pretty good

Looking towards the marinas

Towards the south coast across the lagoon

Built in 1307 the Torre dell ‘Elefante…

….is one of only two Pisan towers still standing. The sculpted elephant guards the rather vicious looking portcullis.

We spent 3 nights at Marina del Sole which was @ €45 per night, the cheapest option. It was a great little marina with a friendly bar open until around 8.30pm daily where a large beer and a glass of wine cost €5 – much more reasonable than town prices. The walk into town along the fairly new promenade took about 25 minutes and, on occasion provided some unexpected entertainment…

“Basket” or “Goal”!

…..or there was the back street option along which we found a couple of chandlers and, on Thursday morning, a Farmer’s Market.

We also visited the main town market where Mike’s favourite purchase was wine from the barrel.

On one of the photographs above I mentioned a lagoon. A flock of flamingos live in the lagoon and, on our departure from Cagliari, we were graced by a pre dusk flight…..

…. followed by a lovely sunset.

Our 202 mile passage from Cagliari to Ustica took just over 41 hours and even though the wind was generally below 12kn – and mainly just 5-7kn on the stern quarter – we managed two periods of sailing of around three hours each.

Greeted by dolphins…

….we arrived at Ustica at 8.45am on 21st May. We had deliberately timed our passage to arrive early morning as we were not sure whether or not we would be able to stay – due to the size of the harbour – and the nearest next landfall is about 50 miles away on the Sicilian mainland which, had we needed, we would have been able to make in daylight.

However, we were lucky. There was one boat already there but, with space for about four boats, we were able to stay which really pleased me as I had hoped we would be able to visit since first reading about it in the Pilot Guide.

It is a magical place, full of local character!

Tending the garden

Whats going on then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime meeting and greeting

It was first inhabited around 2000BC and its history is peppered with accounts of mass deaths including 6,000 mutinous Carthaginian soldiers who were abandoned there to die of hunger and thirst and of a Bourbon colony who were massacred by pirates.

The waters surrounding the island have been declared a Marine Reserve and it is now best known for its dive sites which bring tourists and income to the island.

Part of the marine reserve including the no anchoring or fishing zone

Typical “grotto” for divers

A map given to us by a “line handler” when we arrived showed that it was possible to circumnavigate the island by footpath – and eager as ever to see as much as we could we spent a lovely day doing just that.

Tombs

North-East lighthouse..

…and the South-West one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the top

The ancient village…no access on the day we visited

A marshy lagoon – information sign long weathered away

The tower…love the wonky lamp post

It was a good job we had had the presence of mind to pack water and a picnic because there was no café or shop to be found other than in the town. We passed two which might open in the height of season but they were well and truly shut at the end of May.

The town itself is well known for its murals of which the following are just a few examples.

The tiled maps were amusing….

….though both fail to record that the area at the bottom of the island is named “Arso”!

One other sign which we studied was this one about “Jellies”.

It was repeated throughout the Italian islands. Whether it is just this part of the med that has been particularly “infected”, or whether we will find the same when we get to Greece we don’t know. Certainly there were Jellies in some anchorages in the Balearics and we saw some here in Ustica harbour.

Whilst the nature reserve is of the marine variety we saw lots of wonderful flora and fauna as well…..

Some interesting agricultural technique using cactus as shields

Pale Clouded Yellow….

… and clouded yellow

Some lovely poppies…

… and a Goshawk

…. an island well worth visiting. We aren’t really sure if there is a set charge for staying there – or whether it’s all made up according to whim/season! On arrival we were told €40 per night. When Mike went to pay the following morning he was quoted €40 for one but €50 for two – which was an offer we couldn’t refuse as it allowed us to do the walk. Our friends on Coriander who visited a few days after us got the same rate – maybe because they told the harbourmaster they knew what we had been charged but we have no idea what anyone else paid and on noonsite/CA forum various different prices are quoted! Whatever, to us it was well worth the €50 we paid.

However, on 23rd May it was “Goodbye Ustica” at 6.50am….

….. and “Hello Aeolians” at 5.00pm.

We didn’t actually stop at Alicudi as we had been advised by our French “neighbours” in Ustica that the anchoring area was now full of fishermen’s mooring balls which could be “borrowed – for a price”. Instead we passed the famous Filicudi stack…

Who do you think of?

… and made for the island where we saw them anchored in a place which, according to our charts was “out of bounds” and which we didn’t fancy anyway as to get below 20m depth you had to be practically up the beach. So in a rather inelegant fashion, due partly to the height of our freeboard meaning I couldn’t thread the rope through the ring and the fact it was heavy and couldn’t be lifted by boat hook, at our third attempt we managed to attach ourselves to one of the mooring balls here. This was for a €40 charge in what turned out to be an uncomfortable rolling anchorage. Won’t be rushing back there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next anchorage outside the harbour at Santa Marina, Salina, didn’t work either.

We didn’t try the harbour as it is quoted as Band 6+ which normally seems to mean €100 and above for the night. The southern anchorage shown in the pilot is marked on the electronic chart as, again, out of bounds and the northern anchorage was basically pebbles and the anchor would not hold so we moved on to Isola de Lipari and found a brilliant anchorage – hurrah!

Porticello is “mentioned” in the pilot under “other anchorages”. It deserves much more than that as a description. It is an area around 1-2 miles along the eastern coast where volcanic dust has created a sand like bottom with depths of up to 7 metres for about 300metres out. The water was crystal clear and, although the view was a little strange we thought it was great. It would be untenable in strong east or south winds but in the conditions we had it was perfect.

Wanting to visit the Archaeological Museum in Lipari we decided to go into EOL MARE marina in Pignataro

– about 20 minutes’ walk from the main town. We were offered a pay for 2, stay 3 night “deal” which worked out at €33.33 per night. We think we hit on a May bargain as websites for most marinas in Lipari – where we could find prices shown – showed a substantial price hike in June.

Lipari Town is the largest urban centre in the islands and was a very pleasant place to visit.

It has been the most important place in the Aeolians for the 6000 years during which it has been inhabited and its museum, set high on the citadel….

…. explains it all…..

….. though trying to equate the diagrams to the ruins wasn’t always easy.

It was first settled by the Stentillenians who developed a flourishing economy based on obsidian….

WOW.. was my reaction to this piece

Greeks used the island as a base port on their east-west routes and the famous pirate, Barbarossa [Redbeard] was so attracted to the port that he sacked it in 1544!

The museum is described as a “must see” for Mediterranean history buffs.

So much information

Interested as we are in such things we agree that it is really for “buffs”, for scholars of Greek and Roman artifacts who recognise the differences between one vase and another!

Case….

…after case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very important one apparently

There were so many exhibits in every category – it was mind blowing.

1125-1050BC Round urns for crouched burials and cremations in “situlae”

Some of the tomb figures were interesting…

Small articles for young girl’s tomb – including a seated Aphrodite

…as were the Greek miniature masks and comic figures which represented the players from staged productions which the audience could buy as mementoes.

C4 “Middle Comedy” fgures

Masks from Aristophanes “Ecclesiazusae” – about women dressing as men to take over government

The skills of Roman craftsmen from C3-2BC is astounding…

…and there were items which remind us that most times we haven’t actually invented anything new.

From Lipari we walked through the tunnel cut into the mountain to the other town on the island – Canneto.

A rather strange town where holiday makers reputedly go for its beach…

… which was a rather uninspiring stretch of pebbles in front of similarly uninspiring cafes. However, we found one bakery which sold some of the Sicilian classics.

Cassata is a concoction of sponge cake, cream and marzipan topped with candied fruit – which, even though I love marzipan, I found much too sweet, preferring instead the Cannoli – a crunchy pastry tube filled with sweet ricotta.

By this time Gill and Steve had arrived on the other side of the island at a small anchorage at the bottom of “Valle Muria” so we sailed round to join them. The usual “nice to be together again” meal, drinks and chat ensued as we watched some late arrivals to the anchorage.

The following day we went across to Isola di Vulcano – the name speaks for itself.

Smoke over the rim

The southernmost island, it is composed of two extinct craters [which originally appeared from the sea in 183BC] and one active crater.

There are two possible anchorages and we opted for Porto di Ponente which provides better shelter generally [except in strong westerlies] and which, having seen them both, is by far the more attractive of the two.

Mud baths seem to be one of the two main attractions of the island, the other being climbing the volcano.

I’m afraid we did neither – we just had a lazy day wandering around enjoying the company of friends.

The following day was our last in the Aeolians and we went north to Panarea to spend the afternoon ashore there before setting sail for Greece.

To get us in the mood for Greece – Panarea’s blue and white theme

BUT, wait just a minute, you may be thinking – surely she must have forgotten Stromboli. Well, no I haven’t. We didn’t actually anchor there but we had planned our route so that we could leave from Panarea late afternoon and sail round the north side of Stromboli at night before heading south again. We looked forward to it with anticipation – to see the volcanic lava bursts at night – but I’m afraid that as we approached the island, the only clouds we had seen for the past week descended….

….and although we did see a couple of bursts they were nothing like we hoped for. Maybe it was a slow night for lava eruptions? Maybe it is always like that? Lots of people pay money to be taken by tourist boat on a late evening trip and cruise ships stop on their way past. It doesn’t help that I can’t do night photography. So, hope you weren’t anticipating much either dear readers – ‘cos this grainy shot with a small red blob is all you get!!!!

It did look better in “real life” – honest!

Still, at least we can say we have done it.

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