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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BACK IN SICILY’S EGADI ISLANDS

John, Alice and Lily enjoyed their remaining time with us at the Egadi Islands - strolling in Favignana village with stops for cappuccino and delicious cannole, going ashore to sunbathe and swim, John and Alice doing a day-long bike tour of the island.
The wind was mostly 15-20 knots and every couple of days changed from NW to SE requiring us to move from one side of Favignana Island to the other, sometimes anchoring, other times picking up a mooring buoy for 25 Euros (about NZ$39). There was some slight swell wherever we anchored so we used our flopper stoppers most of the time and sometimes an additional anchor to keep our stern to the swell.

John and Laurie deploy stern anchor

At one beach we met some retired mainland Italians, Francesco and Lilian, who have a holiday house at Favignana. Lilian never had children of her own and would have cuddled Lily forever.

We meet Francesco and Lilian ashore

One of our favourite swimming beaches with RHIB anchored

A great anchorage on the southern side of Favignana Island

Favignana is the only island with reasonably sheltered anchorages, the two other islands being subject to swell. Because these islands are a Marine Protected Area cruising in some parts is not allowed, while anchoring in other areas is also not allowed.

Envoy on mooring in Cala Freddo, Lovanzo Island

Two fabulous weeks passed all too quickly, and we headed back to Trapani to take John, Alice and Lily to Palermo airport – a wonderful time, many more to come.

We drove back from the airport via Monreale, visiting the awesome Cathedral, commissioned by the Norman, William 11, and completed in 1184. This is considered the greatest example of Norman architecture in Sicily and one of the best in Italy. Countless paintings inside depict Biblical history in gold leaf, making you wonder how it has all survived Sicily’s tempestuous history.

Monreale Cathedral

Monreale Cathedral Cathedral’s naive has paintings in gold leaf

In Trapani we refueled for the first time this year taking on 804 litres of diesel plus 40 litres of petrol for the RHIB.
With nearly two weeks before the arrival of our daughter, Amy, it was back to Favignana again. A few days later we met some Australians – Gary and Vanessa and their children Marina (7) and Elliot (14) aboard their 13m yacht Neptune 11. They sailed from Brisbane six years ago and only Vanessa has been back one time since, so interestingly Marina has spent nearly her whole life aboard the yacht with no memory of Australia. Gary and Vanessa provide education but they do plan to sail home during the next two years, crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific, partly so their children can receive a more formal education.
Gary is a talented sax player, formerly playing in bands and we had one great evening playing guitar and sax aboard Neptune 11.

Gary and Laurie jamming

Although many people live the cruising life it’s very rare to meet people firstly with children aboard and secondly who don’t return home every year or so.
One day we were enjoying a quiet swim in a sandy cove when a 9 metre RHIB with about eight noisy Italians motored up right beside us. They introduced themselves and produced a bag of sea eggs (known in New Zealand as kina). One of them proceeded to break open some kina and spread their roes on slices of fresh bread for us, as they asked us al sorts of questions to satisfy their curiosity. We are surprised to meet some Italians who don’t know where New Zealand is – one said “close to Scotland isn’t it”.
One night we took a mooring in a Favignana Island bay called Cala Rossa (Cove of Blood). Here in 241BC a Roman fleet of 200 ships defeated a Carthaginian fleet of 400, taking 15,000 prisoners and making the sea red with the blood of those killed. All around this part of the island are Carthaginian ruins, laid waste by the Romans.
Then it was back to Trapani again, just two hours away, to meet Amy.

TECHNICAL – nothing to report

ENVOY LOG As at 1/8/14, we’d spent 115 days aboard and cruised 983 miles for 180 engine hours.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

STUNNING CASTELLAMARE DEL GOLFO

Yachts can anchor inside the sheltered harbour at Castellamare del Golfo, but wanting to explore by rental car for a couple of days we moored stern-to a jetty for Euro 60 (NZ$94) per night including power and water. This is a delightful spot with helpful staff, the obligatory ancient castle and the picturesque sea front lined with inviting bars and restaurants.

Castellamare del Golfo marina and village

Envoy initially anchored at Castellamare del Golfo before mooring stern-to a jetty

First stop with our car was Segesta, originally home to Bronze Age Elymians, descended from legendary Trojans, and the stunning and serene site of a never-completed but well preserved Doric temple dating from 430 BC.

Spectacular Doric temple at Segesta

Laurie, Lily and John before temple

What makes this site particularly great is the location of the temple on the edge of a deep rugged gorge surrounded by lush fertile farmland.

Di, Laurie, John and Lily view gorge by temple

The next stop was Palermo to visit the ghoulish Catacombs of the Capuchins where about 8,000 mummified bodies of people who died in the 1600s to 1800s are displayed for all to see in a gloomy labyrinth of corridors. Some are lying down while others are standing against the walls supported by cords. Included are the bodies of men, women, children and even babies, mostly reasonably intact and dressed in clothing of the period. The body of one young girl is said to be so well preserved as to be almost lifelike, but she didn’t look that way to us. It was very macabre and we all agreed the bodies looked like they were props from Michael Jackson’s DVD, Thriller. This was interesting but we wouldn’t want to do it again. If you want to see some macabre pictures Google Palermo catacombs.

We finished the day with a cooling swim at a stony beach, finding a small rock pool ideal for Lily to splash around in.

Next day we visited Scopello, a small and sleepy atmospheric village based around an 18th century baglio (fortified manor house).

Scopello’s main square

The owners of a hotel invited us onto their rear balcony to look below to the coastal site of an old tonnara (tuna processing factory). This is sheltered from the open sea by several small islands and a very popular spot for swimming, despite the fact you have to pay and can only sit on concrete.

View of tonnara from hotel 

Sicilians love kids and people wanted to hold Lily – the hotel owner with Lily

View of tonnara from the sea – the hotel we looked down from is upper left

John and Laurie snorkeled around the coast adjacent to the tonnara

Now we had a family conference and a change of plans. John and Alice decided they’d like to spend their remaining week back at the Egadi Islands, rather than exploring mainland Sicily. Fortunately the seven hour return trip was in nice calm conditions unlike our outward trip.

Alice and John on Envoy’s bow with paravanes out

TECHNICAL - nothing to report.

ENVOY LOG As at 22/7/14, we’d spent 105 days aboard and cruised 925 miles for 168 engine hours.

Monday, August 04, 2014

JOHN, ALICE AND LILY ARRIVE IN SICILY

With the imminent arrival of our son John, daughter in law Alice and grand daughter Lily into Palermo, we moved to Trapani harbour, about 50 km from Palermo airport.
We were about one mile out from our Favignana anchorage on our way to Trapani when we noticed our RHIB was no longer behind us - I had improperly secured it, so couldn't blame Di! We turned around and went back to the anchorage, where the RHIB was now close to rocks ashore, so I brought Envoy in as close as I could and Di leaped into the water, and swam about 40 metres to the RHIB. The plan was for Di to climb aboard, start the engine and bring the RHIB back to Envoy, but Di had forgotten where the outboard’s power tilt button was so couldn’t start it. I could see that Di was having problems and had got back in the water to hold the RHIB away from the rocks, so I anchored Envoy close-by, swam to assist her and all was OK. But there’s a lesson here - it’s nearly always me, the skipper who drives the RHIB, but it should be your crew so they are familiar with it. I’ve also thought about whether I should have asked Di to wear a lifejacket. I think the answer is no, because the swimming distance was short, conditions were reasonable, it was close to shore, and a lifejacket would have made swimming much more difficult.

Trapani is an interesting town based around an ancient large well-sheltered harbour where Peter of Aragon landed in 1282 to begin the Spanish occupation of Sicily. Trapani has an interesting well-preserved “old town” full of cobbled alleyways, churches, former palazzos (palaces), restaurants, tavernas and quirky shops.

Statue of Neptune in Trapani

View down Vittorio Emanuele, one of the old town’s main streets

A Trapani wine shop where you can taste first and buy cheaply in bulk

Delicious selection of Sicilian pastries including our favourite cannole (bottom left) – fried pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese

Berthing alongside a jetty in a Trapani shipyard cost 40 Euros (NZ$63) per night including power and water. Our location was anything but picturesque, surrounded by large vessels in various states of disrepair, but it was sheltered, safe, cheap and suited our needs.

Envoy moored in lifting berth in Trapani harbour

Impressive view of hydrofoil below water. She was out for repairs

On Monte San Giuliano (St Julian) 756 metres above Trapani is the fabulous medieval walled village of Erice, accessed by cable cars that provide fabulous vista for miles of surrounding area. Baby Lily was agape as she waved at the cable cars whizzing over our heads at the lower terminus.

Alice and John take in the view during cable car ride

Diane and the great view from the mountain-top village of Erice

The Norman castle, about 1,000 years old is still in good shape

Erice street musician with gaily painted donkey-drawn cart

Close-up of historical scene paintings on cart

Erice is famous for the mysterious ancient Cult of Venus – in the Temple of Venus acolytes (assistants to the priestesses) participated in sacred prostitution. Lonely Planet says it’s easy to guess why the site remained inviolate through countless invasions, until the Normans built the Castello di Venere on the site of the temple.

Ceramics shop on cobbled lane in Erice

Prior to leaving Trapani we needed to get our Constituto stamped by Coastguard so John and I went down to see them. Normally we find Coastguard staff to be civil and bordering on friendly, but these were a strange lot – it seems that a snarl on your face is a job pre-requisite, but after a long wait and none-too-friendly service we finally got the stamp we needed.

Back at the Egadi Islands we all had some family catching-up and relaxation time – swimming, walking, having coffees and beers ashore and generally chilling out. 11 month-old grand daughter Lily took to the water like a duck, and Diane and I loved looking after her, giving John and Alice some time out.

John, Lily and Alice enjoy a refreshing swim

Lily enjoying swim Favignana’s tepid waters in her new lifejacket with John

For a time one issue at the Egadis was a small jellyfish, called Pelagia, that give a nasty sting, feeling like a minor electric shock. Di had a brush with one that left nasty welts and still hadn’t healed over two weeks later.

Pelagia jellyfish

The jellyfish scars on Di’s upper arm was still there three weeks later

I got stung twice, and John once, and although the marks took some time to go they weren’t anywhere near as sore as Di’s. From then on wherever we swam we kept a sharp lookout for them, particularly with Lily in the water. At least there are no wasps – a curse last year in Croatia, and very few flies or mosquitoes.

Our plan was to head towards Palermo and then out to the Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily, so we cruised back towards Sicily in a rising WNW wind exceeding forecast, reaching 20 knots. The long fetch here caused waves up to three metres high on our port quarter with some cresting and breaking, making for an uncomfortable trip and poor Lily was seasick, although fine after that. Anchored outside Capo San Vito marina that night was quite rolly from the unsettled seas, even with our flopper stoppers down, but by next morning when we set off for Castellamare del Golfo the wind and seas had dropped considerably. 

TECHNICAL The guest head holding tank contents full light isn’t working – another job for electrician Doug.


ENVOY LOG As at 10/7/14, we’d spent 93 days aboard and cruised 757 miles for 128 engine hours.