WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2008
At about 4am a large cruise ship came on the radar 12 n.miles off our stern showing a bearing heading for our course. It is my understanding that it is a passing boat's obligation to clear you. This boat shows no intention of changing course, even when it is only 2 n.miles away. Less than half n.mile away I gave in to slow right down and turned off course 20 degrees to port. I knew this would wake Ross but it was definitely on a collision course. We are sure no one could have been on watch, which is scary, and is just amazing out in this vast expanse of water.
I cannot believe I've slept until 10.30am. My last watch finished at 5.45am. Ross has a catch up sleep later.
Today is very calm and we are motor sailing up to 8kts with a favourable current as we pass the "toe" of Italy. We are now looking forward to sampling Italian food and culture. We cross Messina Strait with quite a roll happening, to arrive to anchor at Taormina at 5pm.
View of Taomina from our anchorage
This first stop is a wonderful introduction to Sicily. We have caught up with Free Spirit again so have an explore, and dinner together at Osteria Nero D'Avola. Taormina is situated high up on the mountainside with spectacular views. It is a well-preserved medieval town with its narrow streets lined with fashionable shops, restaurants and antique bazaars.
The Church in Taomina
THURSDAY, 7 AUGUST 2008
This morning we wake up to find 2 delicious apple pastries on the back of the yacht. What a treat. Phil has done an early morning bakery run to shore. After spending time catching up on jobs on Impulsive we set off mid-afternoon in the dinghy to Isola Bella (nature reserve) and San Andrea, two delightful coves just around the headland. There is a magnificent grotto here, with stunning blue waters of different tones from light through to dark. We can see why so many tourists are attracted to these areas. We just tie up to a buoy to swim off the dinghy. This is a refreshing cool off, and then we sit and enjoy the scene.
It's very hot today so we wait until the cool of the evening to catch the bus up to Taormina to have another explore and then meet Robbie and Phil for dinner. This is a restaurant famous for its slow food, and its cuisine is excellent, especially the sliced squid cooked in orange juice and balsamic vinegar.
FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2008
Later today Amanda Ladbury is joining us from London. She did a sailing course with her sister, Emma, in Corfu a few years ago, so are hoping we have some good sailing conditions for her.
We set off motoring to Aci Trezza further down the east coast of Sicily. The weather is calm and the water like glass. The very small harbour is most attractive, the main feature being the black basaltic rocks that stand up out of the sea like pillars. There is great mythology associated with this involving Odysseus.
We take Amanda out in the dinghy to swim at this area which is a designated marine reserve. It is a lovely place where you can tie the dinghy to a buoy and just enjoy being there.
This evening we catch a bus into Catania. We are disappointed with this city, written up as Sicily's "most vibrant city". It is very hot which doesn't help, and accentuates the tourist rubbish lying around eg. scrappy papers.
A local man befriends Ross on the bus stop while Amanda and I are keeping cool in an air-conditioned clothes shop. He generously takes us on a guided tour of the major sights and gives us valuable local knowledge, eg where to buy our return bus tickets and where not to walk after dark.
The architecture here is very grand and many of the buildings are built from the local lava stone. From all these places we have a view of Mt. Etna which is currently blowing out smoke. This volcano last erupted in 2007. The city has been allowed to run down but with recent renovations and cleaning of some of the more outstanding buildings you can envisage how impressive it once was. Many of these cities and towns do not allow cars through their centres to reduce the pollution.
Other locals we talk to recommend a perfect place for dinner, outside and serving fresh seafood. We are enjoying the oils and wines from the productive Etna region. Catania is a student city who fill the cafes and bars and give the place more atmosphere later into the night.
The gelati ice creams are good here - we sample one while we wait for the bus to return to Impulsive.