Thursday, 11 June 2009

Aeolian Islands, Italy's Volcanic Island Chain ... June 2010

04-10 June 2010

***From the rim of Vulcano looking down into the anchorage of Porto Levante, Stromboli is in the far distance***Right in amongst the steam at Vulcano***Time for a relaxing mud bath***Peter, Bridget, Mark, Amanda, Helen and Ian on top of Vulcano *** Vista from Vulcano***

After our early start from Naxos, long day up through the Straits of Messina and into the Tyrrhenian Sea we pulled into the eastern anchorage of Porto Levante on the stunning island of Vulcano at 7.30pm. This compact anchorage is set at the bottom of Gran Cratere, an active crater still steaming away up on the rim, clearly visable above the anchorage. It last erupted in 1890 so we hoped it would stay settled for a couple more days so we could enjoy the area. We finally found a spot in shallow enough water that we would be able to swing in and settled in for the night. Not an easy task as its a small area, half filled with local moorings and the seabed drops off dramatically - we didn't want to get blown back to Messina during the night. One poor latecomer came heading at speed into the moored boats area just on dark, only to stop very quickly and noisily as they ran aground onto a rocky ledge. No amount of forward, reverse, bow thruster, sails up with the 6 burly blokes onboard hanging off the boom was going to shift them and eventually in the dark they put their anchor light on, surrendered to their fate and went to bed. They were gone in the morning (never to be seen again) so just enough tide must have come in to free them from the rocks clutches.

Next morning we went ashore with Peter and Bridget off White Rose and Ian and Helen offSundancer II for the climb to the summit of Vulcano the Volcano. It was certainly a good workout with some very steep sections, made more difficult as part of the base was lose scree but it really was worth it. The skies were blue and it had warmed up, maybe the snowing on Mt Etna had finally cleared the spring air and summer was coming after all. The views were great, northeast across to smouldering Stromboli, and west out to even more coneshaped islands rising out of the very blue med. Parts of the rim were alive, so much steam in places that you couldn't see through it, bright yellow and lime green deposits of sulphur were in abundance, and bubbling puddles of mud just to remind us of home. Then of course there was the smell, you sure could tell it was volcanic, it does a great job of clearing the sinuses!

The weather was settled so we stayed another day, more Australians arrived! Andrew, Clare and friend Colin on Eye Candy popped up again, just in time to join the rest of us for a relaxing theraputic wallow in the warm, muddy, murky, slimy waters at the Mud Bath. Not everyone could quite bring themselves to partake, sliding down into the slippery and smelly unknown, but for those of us that did, well we had a great time. We scooped up all the gooey mud, plastered ourselves and laid back to let nature take its course. The baths are adjacent to the beach, so once rejuvenated by all those natural minerals we took a dip in the salt water, taking care not to burn our toes on a hot jet spurting out! All in all it was fun outing, and it got me in for my first swim of the season. We later had a swim off the back of the boat, even though the water temperature was still a chilly 21c, we headed towards shore with snorkels on and floated in awe, watching the air bubbling up from the bottom catching the late afternon sun, it was quite magical. I now know just how a goldfish feels surrounded all those bubbles!! We were rewarded for all this activity by an excellent gelato, siesta and then cruisers happy hour ashore on the beach. What a great stopover

We moved on a couple of miles north to the next island of Lipari. We had hoped to anchor off the town and go ashore to visit the highly recommended museum there but it was very deep water close inshore and there was much wash from the ferries so we abandoned that idea. The settled weather was continuing so we headed south around the island onto the west coast and pulled into a deserted bay along withSundancer II. We didn't expect to find empty anchorages in Italy in June, what a treat. We went ashore to see if we could walk over to the town, but after a big climb to the top of the hill no obvious way down was apparent, so we abandoned that idea and went back for a swim instead. We were later joined by White Rose and Eye Candy, more cruisers happy hours followed!

Cruising Info for the Aeolian Islands:-
Anchorages - The Italian Waters Pilot recommends the Aeolian Group as fair weather anchorages only. We felt they were as good as any, and there are choices to move if the wind changes direction. They are really worth the stopover.
Porto Levante, Vulcano: 38 25.040N 14 57.658E 4m sand

Valle Muria, Lipari: 38 27.550N 14 55.944E 9.5m sand 
Communications - We had Vodafone and TIM coverage on our phones at both anchorages but no WIND for our dongle at either. But could get WIND at Vulcano East anchorage apparantely and probably ashore.
Sightseeing - €3 entry fee per person to climb Vulcano and €2 per person for the mud bath 

Money - Don't remember seeing an ATM but I'm sure there would have been one
Provisions/Fuel - A couple of reasonable supermarkets, excellent butcher and good fruit and veg shops all ashore in Vulcano, small place all easy enough to find. Fuel Dock over in Lipari town at location in Cruising Guide which White Rose used. €1.32 per litre
Formalities - still none in Italy

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