Friday 15 August 2014

Sailing to Vulcano, Lipari and the Aeolian Islands Pt2

August 17-19, 2013

Lipari was an unexpected gem

  We enjoyed a sedate but nice downwind sail next morning on our way to the island of Vulcano. That’s right, this actively volcanic island is actually named Vulcano.

Leaving our anchorage on Basiluzzo and our superyacht neighbour astern.
The Romans believed that Vulcano was the chimney of the god Vulcan's workshop and therefore named the island after him. (Obviously the name caught on for other smoking mountains all over the world) The island had grown due to his periodic clearing of cinders and ashes from his forge. The earthquakes that either preceded or accompanied the explosions of ash etc., were considered to be due to Vulcan making weapons for Mars and his armies to wage war. The Romans used the island mainly for raw materials, harvesting wood and mining alum and sulphur.

Currently, around 470 people live on the island, mainly deriving their income from tourism. It has several hotels and cafes, the important attractions being the volcano’s active crater, beaches, hot springs and sulphur mud baths.

Isla Basiluzzo to Volcano – 23.8  Nautical Miles – 3 Hours 32 Minutes
Average Speed 3.6 Knots – Max 6.9 Knots
Our anchorage on Vulcano with the gaping crater just to the south.
We anchored in the shadow of the volcanic peak in a nice sandy bay just off a beach that featured steaming mud pools at one end. The mud is said to possess healing and soothing qualities for the skin guaranteed to make you look much younger. Swim in the pool then cover your face and body in the mud, let it dry and form a mask, then rinse it off in the sea where hot springs make the water warm and bubbly, like a natural Jacuzzi.

As soon as we got ashore a bee line was made for the mud baths. Karen, Tony and Lynne were keen but Rob was more than a little sceptical deciding he’d make the sacrifice of staying out of the ‘vile sulphur smelling cesspit’ and photograph the immersion and transformation of the soon to be younger looking trio. They thought it was cheap at only Two Euro for the dubious privilege, so in they stepped. ‘Shit it’s hot,’ Karen exclaimed before taking the plunge undeterred. (Or should that be under turd)

Let's all jump in the almost boiling mud on Vulcano. It'll be fun.
After rinsing off a liberal coating of the milky coloured sludge in the sea, our now rosey red threesome headed for the showers to discover they were coin operated at two Euros for about thirty seconds of water. Nice scam! But wait it got better. The very acidic and it turns out, low radioactive mud also stripped all the platinum coating off the white gold chain and pendent Karen was wearing, ate away her silver anklet and destroyed all the buckles on her bikinis. Another ten minutes in there and she would have been naked. Yep! Two Euro was a bargain.

Obviously this girl was just trying to save at least half her
swimmers from being eaten away by the mud.
Later that evening after another swim in the sea and showers on board, all three did remark over a wine or two that their skin felt much younger and smoother. That seemed logical to Rob as he espoused that clearly the outer couple of layers of ‘older’ skin had been eaten off living newer younger skin exposed. He expected all three to glow in the dark once the sun set.

The mud pits are at the far end of the black sand beach at the foot of the
very much live and kicking volcano.
Next morning we discovered a bigger problem than the fact all the swimmers  had lost much of their colour and still stunk of sulphur. Our batteries weren’t charging when we ran the engine and despite checking all the obvious potential culprits, we couldn’t find why. We had little choice but to head to one of the ridiculously expensive pontoon berths at the nearby island of Lipari and see if we could find a marine electrician to investigate.

It was only a short hop of a couple of miles over to the largest of the Aeolian Islands but getting a berth was a challenge. The town of Lipari is located on a large, open bay where the only public berths are found on pontoon fingers that stretch out from the shore. Each is run by different concession holders who have one thing in common, an understanding of supply and demand. The pontoons don’t offer any shower or toilet facilities. They provide little protection from any weather from the north east to south east or the constant washing machine of wake from the fleets of high speed ferries entering and leaving the bay from before dawn to well after dark. After circling around and around for almost two hours, we were finally able to secure a spot on the pontoon furtherest from the town centre but adjacent to the main fuel pontoon which ensured a constant supply of additional wake to sorely test our fenders. But this is the peak summer season so for the privilege we were only required to pay 115 Euro( $160aud) per night. Oh and it had to be cash. Wouldn’t want the pesky Government getting a share for taxes would we.

The fuel dock was right beside on Lipari with toys like this huge rib making
plenty of wake to keep us rocking and rolling all day.

For a spot we had not intended visiting, Lipari proved to be a very pleasant stop on our Aeolian wanderings and we made the most of our time here exploring and enjoying this delightful town and it’s very friendly people. Lynne was of the opinion the boat's electrical issues was a male problem and decided she and Karen would get off the boat while Rob and Tony set about getting our battery charging sorted out with the assistance of Mario, a quite elderly marine electrician steered in our direction by the pontoon manager. He arrived at the boat with no shoes, no shirt, no tools and no English. A game of charades ensued to try explain the problem but that  proved fairly unsuccessful until Rob thought to start the engine and point to the gauge showing Mario that no charge was going into the house batteries that power all our lights, instruments, autopilot etc. ‘Ahhhh!’ said Mario before starting a new round of charades which we successfully guessed meant he wanted a screwdriver. Within seconds he had the cover off a relay box above the engine and pointed to one part of it exclaiming ‘Kaput’. He unscrewed it off the bulkhead, pointed to five o’clock on his watch, said we have no idea what and disappeared off the stern and down the pontoon with the offending relay box.  After a brief conference to try to work out what just went on, we resolved that maybe he meant that he would be back at five o’clock.

Meanwhile Karen was being lead all over Lipari by Lynne for some serious retail therapy and art gallery visits. Having not had any ‘girl time’ like this at all since she was last with Lyn back in the UK eighteen months previously, Karen was initially finding the whole experience a little weird. Since the UK she’d only ever been shopping etc with Rob, Marc or both which she assures us is a very different affair and she was very much out of practice.  By the time they got to the long lunch she was starting to feel better about it all. When discovering even more galleries and shops full of local art, crafts and designer fashions from Milan followed she was starting to get right back into the swing of things and was totally in the groove before the second cocktail was drained near the end of day stop at a trendy bar.

Back at the boat Rob and Tony were starting to fret. Not about but the girls not being back, but rather, where was Mario. It was after six by now and they were starting to think they may have misinterpreted his communication.

A little before seven our wiry septuagenarian electrician appeared striding down the pontoon full of life, still shirtless, still shoeless but clearly not clueless. He had the pontoon manager in toe to act as interpreter this time and  quickly conveyed that no replacement relay box was available on the island so he would attempt to fix ours and would return the following afternoon about five. As Mario departed Karen and Lynne arrived announcing that they’d had a lovely day and now it was time for the boys to take the girls out to dinner. Cruising is such a hard life for the women sometimes.

We did have a wonderful dinner in one of the manner restaurants in the old town centre and all four of us spent the following day discovering many of the treasures left behind over the various, Greek, Moor, Roman and even Norman eras of this historic island township, all interspersed with some more fine food and wine of course.

Karen and Tony in foodie heaven on Lipari

It was awesome exploring the winding streets of the older parts of Lipari town

This building has been everything including a Greek then Roman temple and
Moorish mosqueover the centuries of various occupations of the island before
finally being reborn again as a Norman Cathedral.

Remnants of Greek columns in the cloister of the cathedral
Super Mario turned up right on cue in the late afternoon and had Alcheringa sending electrical power to all her batteries again within ten minutes. Fantastic. For his three trips to the boat, searching the island for a replacement  before finally jury rigging the unit to get us out of trouble and refitting it his bill was 50Euro. ($70aud) Unbelievable.

Next morning Tony and Lynne bade us an all too soon farewell as they caught the fast ferry across to Palermo on Sicily before flying home. We may not have got to do quite as much sailing as we’d planned but we’d certainly had a ball.


Since returning to Australia at the end of last European summer’s wanderings around the Med, we have been extremely busy, catching up with friends and family, finishing and publishing our first book, ‘Stuff it. Let’s go sailing anyway’, mounting a very successful exhibition of Karen’s artwork and buying a new boat to sail the western Pacific and South East Asia.  We’re now working at finalising the story of our adventures in the Med in this blog and getting it all back to current so keep checking back for new instalments.

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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful seascape & landscape! It's just stunning. I'm not far from Italy, could give it a chance next year and sail there :)


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