Daysailing in Sicily – Palermo, Cefalù and Milazzo

Daysailing in Sicily – Palermo, Cefalù and Milazzo

August in the Mediterranean is hot. It makes you understand immediately, why a thing called siesta was invented here. On the northern coast of Sicily there was no wind in August, which made the days even hotter, while we motored from one anchorage to another. But the good thing about no wind was, that we slept our nights in peace – the anchorages in Sicily are not protected. There was always some swell even on a calm night, but at least we didn’t have to worry about our anchor not holding in strong winds. The water is clean and clear, even in front of big cities, so you can always go for a swim to cool down.

On travelling days we picked up the anchor as soon as we felt we were ready to go, and then motored to the next destination. If it was a nice place, we stayed for several days, reading in the shade or sunbathing, and swimming many times a day. A little boat project every now and then was completed. In the evenings, as it got cooler, it was nice to go and see places and people, enjoy excellent Italian food and the bustle of a nice town. At night we would return to our boat in the dark, in calm seas, and find our own anchor light among a number of others. A very pleasant August it was.

After leaving Trapani, we stopped next at Palermo. We filled our tanks with diesel and water, and did some provisioning at a good supermarket. We never visited the centre of Palermo, but the suburb in front of which we were anchored, left us with an incredibly filthy, dirty impression. We literally had to wade through rubbish and dirt along the streets, while the garbage cans were overflowing with their lids open and surrounded with truckloads of trash.

The Sicilian scenery is amazing – majestic mountains, turquoise waters, white beaches, fragrant pine forests and beautiful (at least from a distance) hillside villages and farm houses. Now we had seen Trapani and Palermo close up, and couldn’t get over the conflict between so much beauty and all this dirt and filth. How could people live in such a paradise, and not care at all?

Fortunately, our faith in the Sicilians was mostly restored in our next destination, the old town of Cefalù. It’s a beautiful, clean and tidy place. It’s also very touristy, but for a good reason! Originally a Greek town, Cefalù is built on a promontory sticking out to the sea, on the sides of a steep hill. The old part is a well preserved medieval town, full of winding streets and alleys and pretty narrow houses. The predominant Norman cathedral dates back to a.d. 1131. As you might know, the Normans were descendants of the Vikings and ruled Normandy in France since the 9th century, and a couple of hundred years later, also large parts of the Mediterranean, including Sicily and southern Italy.

There’s a little fishing harbour in front of the town, with the beach reaching all the way to the bay. The water is shallow and crystal clear. Our boat was anchored outside the buoys marking the swimming area, and in the evenings we would dinghy into town and pull our little boat up the ramp and blend in with the other tourists. It’s one of the best things about travelling on your own boat: you can have as much privacy as you like in an anchorage, and when you feel like it, slip into the middle of hustle and bustle like an alien from another galaxy!

We continued along the coast towards the Strait of Messina. We anchored for a night in front of Capo d’Orlando, and for another in front of a long peninsula close to Milazzo. Except, when we woke up next morning and saw the amazing real life aquarium with Posidonia grass and little schools of fish, we just had to stay a few more days, to swim and snorkel in it! The water was warm and the days clear and calm. We weren’t even bothered by the constant wake from high speed passenger ferries.

When we finally decided to leave for Messina, our anchor windlass wouldn’t make a sound! It had had a little hiccup before, in Sardinia, but resetting a fuse fixed it. This time the problem was something else, and our trouble shooting skills ran out. We heaved the anchor up with the help of our genoa winch and some rope, and motored into the nearby town of Milazzo. There we anchored in front of the town, and dinghied into a chandlery shop to sort out our possibilities. Naturally, we would have to get the windlass fixed, because there’s no way you can pull a 25 kg Rocna and loads of heavy chain up by hand. It would also be practical to have a manual retrieval kit for future emergencies. Fortunately, you can always lower the anchor without electricity!

This time, we didn’t get a manual kit, but the salesman at the chandlery made a phone call to a boat electrician and explained our problem. Alas, within half an hour, Angelo the Electrician arrived, sat in our dinghy, and came with us to our anchorage to fix the windlass! Angelo’s clothes got all wet on the choppy ride, but he didn’t seem to mind – neither did he seem to mind crawling into the dark, cramped anchor locker to get to the windlass. Well, a boat electrician must be used to working in tight spaces. A broken relay was found among the wires and switches, and soon we had a working windlass again! The price for the job was 50 €, but “for a hundred euros you will make me a very happy man”. After a dinghy ride back to land we gave Angelo his 100 €, well and truly deserved. Clearly we were not in Mañana Land! We had anticipated a delay of several days, and here we were with our problem solved within an hour!

Relieved, we went into town to look for a nice pizza. Along a narrow alley we found such a great little restaurant – where we didn’t eat pizza – we immediately reserved a table for the next evening, too. The second night was crowned by an orchestra of three men, singing in harmony, accompanied by an accordion, with a repertoire of all the Italian classics. It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening! Even with our windlass working again, we were absolutely not in a hurry to leave this nice town. What’s another day or two here or there – another great thing about travelling on your own boat!

Next time we will be wandering around Scilla, Kharybdis and some ancient architecture!

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