From Otranto, we headed north along the Apulian coast towards Brindisi. It was a pleasant, sunny day, with just a hint of cool autumn. The passage of 40 nautical miles was uneventful. The wind was good all day, but it was already dark by the time we reached the shelter of the breakwater of Brindisi harbour.
June 2022 marked the beginning of the fifth year of our sailing adventure. The past year will go in the books as a somewhat lazy year, sailing-wise. Our boat Aina spent her fourth winter afloat in Crete, in the marina of Agios Nikolaos. One of our crew kept her company during the stormy Cretan winter, while the other worked in cold and snowy Finland. News of war, disease and inflation depressed everyone’s mood. For balance, we enjoyed the summer in the warm Ionian, detached and stress-free. As long-term travellers, we sometimes get tired or even bored of travelling – as funny or downright criminal as that may sound. But cruising is a lifestyle just like any other. It’s life, and it comprises different phases.
Slowly the Greek coast disappeared behind us. Finally, it was time to sail to a new land – Italy! We had hopped along the Sicilian coast in 2019 on our way east along the Mediterranean, but so far, we had never made landfall in mainland Italy.
The Straits of Messina was, according to our calculations, the fourth place along our journey, where we had to carefully time our passage with the tides. The others were Alderney Race and Chenal du Four in France, and the Straits of Gibraltar. Messina is the only place in the Mediterranean that has significant tidal currents. The height difference is less than a foot, and it’s really surprising how it can cause such strong currents. In Brittany the tidal range was as much as 12 metres in places, so the currents were understandable. But perhaps the Mediterranean has a logic of its own, when it comes to tides, much as it seems to have its own logic with the winds and weather.
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.
As we approached the Sicilian coast on August the 10th, we chose – quite at random, as the sun would go down soon – to stop at the Trapani harbour. We knew nothing about the place, except that there was a free anchorage within the port. But the next morning’s googling revealed an ancient town by the name of Erice on top of a hill close by, and that definitely got us interested! The easiest way to get there would be by a cableway.
We sat under the scorching sun in the Almerimar Marina, waiting for the strong winds to calm down, so we could continue our journey east. In Almerimar there was no sign of any winds, so it felt funny to think there could be 30 knot winds blowing on the other side of the cape. When the forecast showed only 15 knots, gusting to 25, we left.