Wednesday 10 September 2014

Back to Vulcano - the Aeolian Islands Pt3

 August 19-22, 2013

  After waving off our friends Tony and Lynne on the morning fast ferry to the Sicilian capital, Palermo, we were back on the dock that afternoon to welcome back Marc who was returning to the Alcheringa after a visit home to London. He also had his 16 year old nephew, Kieren, in toe for his first taste of the cruising life. They were both exhausted after a very full day of travel and a welcome meal preceded an early night all around.

Next morning Marc and Kieren took the opportunity to have a look around the delightful old town before we dropped the lines after lunch and said goodbye to Lipari. It was certainly good to get away from the washing machine like waters of the harbour and set course back to the short hop back to the relative calm of the anchorage at Vulcano.
Incredible views from the crater

Aug 20 Lipari to Volcano – 3.4 Nautical Miles – 0 Hours 42 Minutes
Average Speed 3.6 Knots – Max 6.1 Knots
We were anchored up by 2.00pm so Marc and Kieren headed straight ashore to do some exploring. We’re not sure Marc realised quite how much exploring as Kieren’s youthful enthusiasm, not to mention rugby playing fitness level, saw him heading straight for the pathway to the top of the smoking volcano itself. Not being one to want to disappoint, Marc dutifully strode alongside and reportedly did a fine job of maintaining the pace despite his heavy nicotine dependence. While Vulcano is largely a snoozing volcano, it has plumes of smoke and gas all around the summit crater. The inside of the crater can be seen from a path around its edge. It’s possible to see right to the bottom of the volcano. All around the summit, fumaroles vent hot, sulphurous gas and much of the ground is hot and stained yellow by the sulphur.

Vulcano's volcano is constantly venting sulphurous gasses

Marc did say he had fleeting doubts when they encountered warning signs stating that gasses emitted around the crater could be lethal but he decided if the number of Rothmans he’d inhaled over the years hadn’t killed him the mountain was also unlikely to succeed. The pair were rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding islands and a truly up close and personal experience standing at the very rim of a smoking volcano. On the adventurers’ return to the boat, Kieren eagerly set about trying his luck fishing bright eyed and bushy tailed while Marc enjoyed some well deserved quiet time resting up with a glass of wine and smoke after what was a far more strenuous climb than most would take on.
Kieren had a line in the water at every opportunity but the fish did not cooperate
Marc contemplating if our neighbours could have anchored any closer over a
glass of wine and smoke on the swim platform
The following day Marc and Kieren headed ashore again while we stayed aboard for a kick back day of planned blogging for Rob and reading for Karen. That was until dark storm clouds started to roll over the top of the mountain about lunch time accompanied by the ominous sounds of thunder. Considering how crowded the bay was with charter boats we’d watch anchor up around us with widely varying skills this was serious cause for alarm. We certainly did not want any repeat of our nasty experience in similar circumstances on Mallorca the previous year. See Ambushed by the Storm Gods in Santa Ponsa

We decided the safest option was to clear out and get plenty of sea room around us so on came the engine and up came the anchor. As we cleared the anchorage of tightly packed yachts and pleasure boats we noticed all of the ferries on the dock were also casting off and making for clear water. We just had time to batten down and get some wet weather gear on when the storm gods unleashed with our gauge showing gusts to 40knots accompanied by near horizontal rain that stung any exposed flesh. As uncomfortable as it was, our only real danger was getting run over by one of the circling ferries as visibility was non-existent at times. Fortunately our AIS not only showed us where they were but also showed them where we were and we were all able to avoid each other without any real drama.

The storm disappeared even faster than it had arrived but as we made our way back to the anchorage we could see it had created havoc in the short time it had visited the bay. Dozens of boats had dragged anchor with some well tangled in the float line marking the swim zone right along the beach. Many showed battle scars where they’d clearly bounced off each other.  As we carefully re-entered the fleet we were concerned at what Marc might have been thinking if he’d come to the beach when we’d gone and found his boat nowhere to be seen. In all the mayhem a nice big clear area had been created which we happily dropped anchor in and set about drying off. As it turned out Marc and Kieren had gone to the other side of the island where the storm had been much less dramatic and he hadn’t been worried at all.

 Unbelievably, within a hour of the storm we had boats entering the bay and anchoring almost on top of us again. We decided it was time to move on.  We left the smoking mountain and its sulphurous stench in our wake at Ten the next morning and motored on glassy waters around the western side of Vulcano past stunning cliffs and many sea caves.
Stunning sea cliffs on Vulcano
There was hardly a breath of wind as we made our way to a small bay at Gelso on the southern end of the island.  Even very close to shore the sea was over 200 metres deep and incredibly blue. Karen couldn’t resist and we drifted for a while so she could cool off in the stunningly inviting water.

Karen insisted we stop the boat for a swim in the stunning deep blue sea.
We anchored off Gelso where we discovered steep cliffs rising behind an attractive black sand beach complete with obligatory waterfront bar, umbrellas and sun loving Italians who we soon joined ashore for a very pleasant final afternoon in the Aeolian Islands before striking out for Sicily on the morrow.

A very enjoyable afternoon was had on the black beach at Gelso

Our anchorage at Gelso

Aug 22 Around Vulcano– 8.1 Nautical Miles – 1 Hours 51 Minutes
Average Speed 4.3 Knots – Max 5.6 Knots


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. While spending much time preparing ‘Our Dreamtime’ to sail off into the western Pacific and South East Asia, we’re also working at finalising the this blog’s story of our adventures in the Med 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.


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