A visit to the Aeolian Islands

We left Cala Santa Maria, a bay in the Maddalena archipelago just off the north east coast of Sardinia at 17:30 on the 21st May. We had about 250 nautical miles to sail to reach our preferred destination of Ustica, a small island about 30 miles north of Palermo on Sicily. We’d been warned that there was only room for 3-4 Yachts in the small harbour and no tenable anchorages should there be no room. Aside for Palermo, the next anchorage was some 60 miles away. For that reason we wanted to arrive around mid-day so that we could reach the alternate anchorage in daylight.

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We’d had a good sail taking just over 2 nights. As usual the sunsets were fantastic.

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We did have a surprise one morning to find a squid on the deck and have no idea how it got there as the seas had been calm

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Approaching Ustica

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In the event we were the only yacht there when we arrived and we were successfully stern moored by 1pm. We’d left Cala Santa Maria off Sardinia and arrived at Cala Santa Maria on Ustica!

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Our friends Mike and Claire had visited a week or so earlier and recommended stopping there. In Italy, ports have line handlers called Ormeggiatore. Effectively they have a concession on a quayside and charge to moor there. They are able to charge what they like and they also arrange any services that you would like. Advice is to stay on the right side of them and they are very helpful. We arrived and the Ormeggiatore helped us with our lines and to save us struggling to get our passerelle out of the locker, supplied one of his. We agreed a fee of €50 for 2 nights which was VERY reasonable for Italy. We were handed leaflets for bike hire and a restaurant in the town.

Ustica is fantastic and we highly recommend going if you get the chance. Another couple of yachts came in and after helping them to moor we walked up the hill to the town, looking back over the small harbour.

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The town itself is quite small and centred around a main street

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With a church at the top

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The map of Ustica, painted on tiles

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Was a sign of what to expect, many of the buildings have murals on them which were excellent

We took up the Ormeggiatore’s recommendation on a restaurant and we weren’t disappointed, I had the best pizza in all of the time we were in Italian waters

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And the chef made Gill a spaghetti carbonara even though it wasn’t on the menu. It turned out that the Ormeggiatore’s family owned the restaurant and he came by that evening, we think, to see who was dining there. We saw him several times in the town and he was very friendly and waved each time. We were reluctant to leave Ustica and would have happily stayed another few days however the harbour is open to the south and strong winds were forecast for later in the day. Gill went to pay the mooring fee and praised Ustica and thanked the Ormeggiatore for his help. He took out a payment schedule which had a rate of €140 per night for our boat, then with a beaming smile he put a line through it and charged us a total of €40 for the 2 nights J

Reluctantly we said our goodbyes and sailed away.

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Our next destination was the main Aeolian archipelago some 90 miles to the east. We knew that once we left the southerly winds at Ustica, the winds would be light and so we planned on a slow 20 hour passage, which is what we got.

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We’d been warned that the first 2 islands in the group, Alicudi and Filcudi had exposed and deep anchorages and it was advisable to pick up a mooring for which there was a €40 per night charge. We chose instead to go to an anchorage called Valle Muria on the west side on the main island of Lipari. We anchored on lava sand in crystal clear waters in 10m at 6am and went to bed to catch up on sleep.

From the anchorage we had a great view of the active volcano on the island of Vulcano.

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We spent the rest of the day swimming and chilling and were joined by a small flotilla in the large bay.

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Mike and Claire were still in the archipelago and the next day came to join us. We had a traditional G&T evening and caught up on adventures since we’d parted company in Majorca a few months previously.

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The next morning, 29th May we motored in company for the 2 miles to the anchorage at Porte de Ponente on Vulcano.

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Which was right under the active volcano mentioned earlier.

The village is quite pleasant and also a good place to provision. There is a frequent hydrofoil service from Sicily and the town was busy with tourists who seemed to want to immerse themselves in the sulphurous mud baths which apparently have healing properties – going by the smell I’m not so sure and we certainly didn’t indulge.

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The sulphur vents were all along the side of the road.

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And the smell could account for the expression of the face of this statue 🙂

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The hydrofoils were a regular feature while we were there and I must say very impressive with no wash from them

Back on board for sun-downers, Claire spotted the sunset and regretted not having brought her camera over – I lent her mine so full credit to Claire for this next shot of Owl and Pussycat with the sun setting over the volcano on Isola di Salina

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Claire, I’ll pass you the originals when we next meet 🙂

Mike and Claire were departing for Greece the next day (30th May) and we agreed that it would be good to sail round Stromboli which was shooting lava into the sky and was quite spectacular by all accounts. Mike an Claire would then sail on through the Messina straights and we’d spend a few more days in the Aeolians before heading to Italy where I hoped to meet up with Frank , an ex-work colleague.

We stopped off at Isola di Panarea on the way, a very beautiful but also very chic and expensive island. There are no cars and the taxis are golf buggies

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Just before 6pm we set off for the 10 mile sail to Stromboli

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It was all looking good until about 8pm when this was the view we had…

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The gods however were with us and the cloud cleared for an hour so we had a great view of the fireworks

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Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any photographs but it was a great experience.

We returned to Vulcano, via Lipari and had a couple of days before heading to Italy.

As an aside, Italy also do tapas

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Both Mike and Claire and Gill and I used to paraglide and we’d been joking about flying off the volcano and thermaling over it – It turned out we weren’t the only ones who had that thought…

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We’d been very lucky to get a period of settled weather to allow us to visit these islands. I’d highly recommend them if you get the chance.