The adventures of Yacht Flirtie

12 September 2017 | Circolo Nautico, Catania (position: 37 30.017’N 15 05.893’E)
07 September 2017 | Catania, Circolo Nautico (position: 37 30.017’N 15 05.893’E)
06 September 2017 | Scilla (position: 38 15.344’N 15 43.073’E)
05 September 2017 | Porto di Tropea (position: 38 40.797'N 15 54.218'E)
05 September 2017 | Porto di Tropea (position: 38 40.797'N 15 54.218'E)
30 August 2017 | Marina Stella del Sud (position: 38 43.041'N 16 07.686'E)
28 August 2017 | Cetraro (position: 39 31.632'N 15 55.122'E)
27 August 2017 | Palinuro (position: 40 01.607'N 15 17.767'E)
26 August 2017 | Salerno (40 40.493'N 14 45.446'E)
25 August 2017 | Amalfi (position: 40 37.921'N 14 36.273'E)
24 August 2017 | Positano mooring field (position: 40 37.483'N 14 29.047'E)
23 August 2017 | Marina Piccola, Capri (position: 40 32.699'N 14 14.593'E)
21 August 2017 | Marina di Stabia (position: 40 43.231'N 14 28.382'E)
17 August 2017 | Porto Miseno (position: 40 47.497'N 14 05.147'E)
17 August 2017 | Porto Miseno (position: 40 47.497'N 14 05.147'E)
15 August 2017 | Cala Inferno, Ponza (position: 41 27.107'N 12 38.853'E)
14 August 2017 | Cala Inferno, Ponza (position: 41 27.107'N 12 38.853'E)
09 August 2017 | Civitavecchia (position: 42 03.892’N 11 48.684’E)
08 August 2017 | Civitavecchia (position: 42 03.892’N 11 48.684’E)

Catania

12 September 2017 | Circolo Nautico, Catania (position: 37 30.017’N 15 05.893’E)
Bruce & Caroline
Bellini Gardens

Torrential rain, lightening and strong winds buffeted us for 24 hours before we finally stepped ashore to explore Catania which sits at the foot of Mount Etna, an active volcano that is currently venting steam into the air. As a visitor we're thrilled to see such a sight but no doubt the locals feel slight apprehension with the constant threat of erruption above them.

Catania has had its fair share of disasters when Etna erupted in 1669 engulfing the city in lava, then a major earthquake in 1693 devastated the whole of south-eastern Sicily. It's now a major port and transport hub and a city with magnificent buildings built from black lava rock and creamy white limestone. Needless to say it's not the most colourful of cities but it certainly has some grand buildings despite numerous articles, forums and blogs suggesting that you should give this city a miss.

The main sights are centered around the Piazza del Duomo one of Sicily's most elegant Baroque piazzas, an open space with a lava rock elephant central fountain supporting an Egyptian obelisk on its back.


Piazza del Duomo with sculpted elephant central fountain

The fish market was easy to find as we could smell it before hearing the welly-clad vendors shout across slabs, polystyrene trays and buckets full of bloodied fish and swordfish steaks cut to order. Sandals weren't the best choice of footwear as we made our way through pools of water and partially melted ice on the floor.



The side alleys off the market were dense with fruit, vegetables, dried herbs, pulses and spices. The aromas were wonderful, added to by vendors roasting aubergines, peppers and artichokes. If that little lot didn't make us feel hungry then the street food certainly got out attention on more than one occasion.


roasted artichokes

After a visit to the market it didn't take too long before we came across a sunken roman theatre, the Bellini gardens and Bellini theatre.... there's certainly plenty of attractions to easily occupy a weeks stay.


Bellini theatre


sunken black volcanic remains of a Roman ampitheatre

Initially we had some reservations about staying at Circolo Nautico NIC because the pilot book suggested that it was more exposed than the other marinas, particularly with a forecast of 40 knot winds coming from the west. The winds were less than predicted and overall we found it comfortable with hardly any surge. Facilities were basic but clean. €47 a night inc. electric, water and rubbish.


Circolo Nautico NIC with Mount Etna nearby

Scilla to Sicily, Catania (via Messina Straits) log

07 September 2017 | Catania, Circolo Nautico (position: 37 30.017’N 15 05.893’E)
Bruce & Caroline
entering the Messina Straits

According to Greek mythology the narrowest point of the Messina Strait was guarded by two horrible monsters. On the one shore there was 'Scylla' a six headed monster with dark green eyes and razor sharp teeth who would lay waiting in her cave poised ready to snatch anything edible that came too close to the shore. On the opposite shore there was 'Charybdis' a giant whirlpool that would swallow anything that ventured too close.

Thankfully for the modern day sailor the six headed monster is a myth, although as we passed the cave it felt as though someone or something was watching us ;-). On a serious note there are strong tidal streams, eddies and whirlpools to be considered along with possible winds that come from the mountains plus a traffic separation system (TSS) right down the centre. Yachts are required to radio in their passage plan to the control tower that monitors the Straits before entering. We decided to stay on the Italian coast and cross over to Sicily once past the busy ferry terminals that constantly transit between mainland Italy and Sicily.


Interestingly, the AIS for this R-O-R-O ferry showed him travelling backwards across the Straits!

It was necessary to time our entry with the south going current and ideally a wind with some north in it especially as we were at full 'springs'. There wasn't any wind predicted so we only had to focus on getting the tidal stream right by referring to high water Gibraltar and adjusting as necessary - and they say that there are no tides in the Med! Alternatively there's an app available from the Google Play store that can be downloaded that will automatically calculate the tidal strength and direction down to the minute, although we still cross checked it with the tidal calculations for Gibraltar for peace of mind. Link to 'Correnti Stretto di Messina'.


our sedate tidal stream


just 3 hours later... for an exhilarating ride!

We departed from Scilla within half an hour of the turn of the tide and were soon in the grasps of the tidal stream, clocking 7 knots over the ground. Flirtie took it all in her stride as the autopilot maintained course and corrected as the various eddies, bubbly water and whirlpools tried to capture us and whirl us around.


eddies, bubbly water and whirlpools

Despite feeling a little anxious it was interesting to watch the movement of water all around us. Within an hour we were out of the strongest streams and started to head towards Sicily with Mount Etna in the distance. We had intended to spend a couple of nights at Taormina Roads on one of the mooring buoys or in the nearby anchorage before pushing on to a marina to hide from the next Mistral. The mooring buoys in Taormina 'Yachthotel' are maintained by George, a Cruising Association honorary local representative (HLR). He offered us a buoy for €40 but advised that with a pending storm on the way we'd probably find Naxos more comfortable for the night but we should move early to seek shelter in either Catania or Siracusa further along the coast. As we headed over to Naxos we took the opportunity to obtain the latest forecast which indicated that stormy conditions were approaching sooner than originally forecast. There seemed little point in anchoring for the night and to not venture ashore and then have to push off early the next morning so we decided to continue on towards Catania about 25 miles further south.

A short while later we found ourselves heading into a long swell that eventually turned into short steep waves making the last few hours very uncomfortable as we were tossed from side to side whilst we noticed in the distance the Guardia Finanza stalking us, like pray. We expected them to board us but instead they circled us before waving and speeding off.

The waves hindered our progress and our arrival at Catania was going to be much later than anticipated so we decided to phone ahead to reserve a berth at one of the marinas there. We phoned two marinas to find that they were full. The remaining two didn't answer even with us trying to contact them repeatedly on VHF once inside the commercial harbour. We were beginning to think that we'd have to berth alongside a fishing vessel or harbour wall if we were unable to find a berth for a few nights until we spotted someone standing at the end of the pontoon at Circolo Nautico NIC who directed us to a vacant berth just before dark. We suspect that he had heard us on the VHF but didn't answer and instead walked to the end of the pontoon. It's certainly been a long day with us covering a total of 62 miles.

Total distance this season: 1004.02 nautical miles

Tropea to Scilla (mooring field) log

06 September 2017 | Scilla (position: 38 15.344’N 15 43.073’E)
Bruce & Caroline
The forecast predicted a couple of hours of wind mid-morning which we thoroughly enjoyed despite heading in totally the wrong direction. Listening to the waves lapping against the hull whilst we enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee just can't be beaten. As predicted just two hours later the wind died out and we were back to listening to the engine whilst we corrected our course and concentrated on fishing.

This time we deployed two lures, one with squids and the other with the 'Finnish Minnow' but yet again no catch. The captain is feeling a bit despondent, questioning and constantly reviewing the length of the line through to the weights and lures. It's keeping him out of mischief as he trawls through online sites desperately trying to find an answer or a reason as to why we still haven't landed a fish. We remain hopeful of a catch before the season is out though.

Dramatic cliffs, impressive viaducts and beautiful sandy beaches stretch out all along this part of the coast and by the looks of things there is now ample space to find a sun bed or a spot to lay a towel. You can tell it's September though because we even spotted an empty beach. In the distance the remaining Aeolian Islands lead the way jutting out like stepping stones towards Sicily that will be our home for the winter.

The fishing village of Scilla is located just at the entrance to the Straits of Messina, a stretch of water that separates Italy from Sicily. We decided to take one of Giovanni's mooring buoys because the anchorage is reported to be foul. A rib approached and we were introduced to Fernando, Giovanni's nephew who tied us bow and stern to one of his buoys given that the swell finds its way into the harbour. The mooring cost €30 and included a 24-hour water taxi service. We've never seen such crystal clear water with such a variety of fish, including a small tuna that briefly chased a shoal of fish around the harbour... fantastic. There are fish in the Med after all!

Fishermen's cottages line the water's edge, some with their own boathouses. Staircases wind up to the village that has only one lane running its length. A rocky promontory provides views straight down to the harbour and a terrace on the other side provides views over to a castle, down to the beach and across the Straits to Sicily. It's a lovely place with bars and restaurants and quaint narrow, cobbled streets. Slipways are full of small colourful boats, the same boats also fill the harbour which we felt had a Maltese influence given their bright colourings.



Scilla is proud of its fishing heritage, specialising in catching swordfish. We were fortunate to see this unique vessel, called a 'passarelle' moored in the harbour. It's huge, comprising of a tall watchtower and a bowsprit far longer than the boat itself. We can only assume that fishing for swordfish is done in calm weather given the momentum at the top of the immense lattice steelworks. Apparently the swordfish rest on the surface during the day enabling the fishing boat to creep up and harpoon the unsuspecting fish. It seems a bit unfair but this method obviously works. Swordfish is naturally the top dish in the local restaurants.


the 'passarelle'

Scilla is our last stop on mainland Italy before we transit the Messina Straits where we'll be faced with huge whirlpools, strong tidal streams, eddies and a six headed monster - we can't wait!


Scilla by night with Stromboli in the background

Total distance this season: 942.33 nautical miles
Vessel Name: Yacht Flirtie
Vessel Make/Model: Trident Voyager 40
Hailing Port: Dartmouth, UK
Crew: Bruce and Caroline Trott
About:
Welcome to Sailing Yacht Flirtie's blog.

Our blog serves as a personal record of our adventures and experiences since leaving the UK in 2012 whilst allowing family and friends to keep up-to-date with our whereabouts. [...]
Extra: email us: bandc.trott@gmail.com
skype us: distant.drummer797
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Yacht Flirtie

Who: Bruce and Caroline Trott
Port: Dartmouth, UK

Where are we now?