Milazzo castle and citadel overlooking the town
We were planning on staying 3 nights at Taormina as it fitted our plans better because it didn't mean quite as early a start to catch the tide up the Messina straits and also George offered a 3-day discount.
However things changed and our cunning plan didn't take into consideration what was happening in the eastern part of the Ionian where it was blowing quite hard and the swell was heading in our direction. Speaking with George he couldn't guarantee how comfortable the bay would be so we paid for just the two nights on the basis that he was happy to honour the discounted rate if we stayed another. Just before midnight it started, the vicious pitching from left to right. With no wind we were beam onto the swell. The pitching worsened by the hour as the pendulum effect took hold. There was no point going to bed and no chance of us getting any sleep so we just relaxed in the saloon as best we could cat-napping. We contemplated leaving straight away (in the dark) but the captain declared it 'too bloody dangerous' to venture on deck in order to undo the lines from the buoy, dodge the other boats and mooring buoys and avoid the shallow areas of rock close by so all we could do was endure it and wait and hope that at first light conditions were marginally better - fortunately they were!
As dawn broke the day started out really gloomy. In the distance we could see dark clouds and heavy showers which were slow moving in our direction. Somehow we managed to miss them. By the time we reached the Messina TSS (traffic separation scheme) all the showers had passed, the sun had come out and we had the company of the occasional dolphin.
The Messina Strait is not to be messed with, certainly for smaller yachts as there are strong tidal streams, eddies and whirlpools and not surprisingly lots of shipping. Mountains either side can accelerate the wind in a matter of minutes and yachts can find themselves in a predicament so important to work out the best time to catch the tide. It's been a while since we've had to work out any tidal calculations so we cheated and referenced the Google app, 'Correnti Stretto Di Messina' (which provides a graphic display of tidal strength and direction down to the minute).
Our first encounter with the Straits was at a spring tide with very little wind. We did see swirls and whirlpools with Flirtie making in excess of 7 knots down the Italian side of the TSS but it was all pretty uneventful. This time we had no wind, a neap tide and faced an adverse current for the final hour or so given our change of plan. Flirtie's speed fell from 6 knots to 4 knots but we made it through nicely before rounding the western tip of Sicily, Capo Peloro to head towards Milazzo for an overnight stop.
a swordfish boat darting around at great speed hunting
Total distance from Taormina to Mizzalo : 58.04 nautical miles
Total distance this season: 171.06 nautical miles