From Sicily to Capri

We were four onboard of Gladan when we left Capo D’Orlando Marina for good. Our friends, Salvo and Patti, surprised us with a last minute decision: they would accompany us until we’d get to Sardinia.

The original plan was to go to Ustica and then cross from there to Cagliari. Having studied the weather forecast though, we realised that following that route would have meant having the wind on the nose most of the time, which would make our sailing very difficult and the long crossing quite uncomfortable.

Salvo then came up with a brilliant idea: ‘why don’t we go visit Capri and Ischia and then cross from there to Olbia?’

Capri – Giardino di Augusto

It took us five seconds to agree to the new plan. Personally, I had never been to any of those so renowned islands so I was thrilled at the idea of seeing them.

Ponza Harbour
Ponza Harbour
ischia - pic
Ischia – Sant’Angelo

The morning after, we set off very early. The journey didn’t start very well. While attempting to leave the pontoon we encountered our first problem: the starboard engine, which was supposed to be our good engine, suddenly turned off. We soon realised that one of the lazy lines of the marina had got entangled in the propeller. Gc dived into the water to free it. Capo D’Orlando didn’t want for us to leave!


Finally out of the marina, we started to make our way to Filicudi, the last island of the Eolian archipelago we would see before adventuring into the open sea: hundred and fifty miles to go, before hitting the rocky shores of Capri.

La Canna – Filicudi

Time passed by quickly with the four of us talking about navigation, astronavigation, fishing and travelling. Everyone’s favourite topic, though, seemed to be food, especially around meals time – which means roughly every two hours when sailing!

Snacks of all kind had been allowed onboard of Gladan for Gc’s joy, who normally claims to have a miserable life, being forced to hide any ‘unhealthy’ food in his secret cupboard and dispose of it away from my sight.

Ischia – Baia Sant’Angelo

Throughout the day, the sea was calm and sailing was good, with an average speed of 7 knots on a close reach.


Night came and we all sat on the flybridge, chit chatting and looking at the stars.


The wind picked up, varying from 17 to 23 knots, so we decided to reef the main, which had been fully open until then. The sea became quite choppy as we progressed towards our destination, so the second part of the crossing was not very comfortable.

The core crew was made of 3 people, with one of us disappearing for couple of hours at a time to hit the bed before returning upstairs on hearing “wake up, a baby dolphin”, or “come, quick, it’s a bunch of them this time”.

There were storms with lighting ahead and behind of us but somehow we managed to avoid them all and got to Capri at 6 am, exhausted but excited at the idea of discovering the islands.


We dropped anchor in the large bay opposite the town of Capri, surrounded by humongous motor and sailing yachts. After a big breakfast we wished each other good night and went to sleep.

From Capri, we easily moved to Ischia, which is roughly 15 miles away, and spent the night at anchor by the Castello Aragonese, in a magical scenery.

Ischia – Castello Aragonese

Ponza and Palmarola were our next stops before the crossing to Sardinia. 





Good Bye Sicily

The moment has come. After 11 months in Sicily, at the beautiful Marina of Capo D’Orlando, it’s time to set sails again and move to our next destination. We avoided the subject as long as we could, knowing that until we said it out loud it wasn’t going to happen: we weren’t going to leave.


Deep down though we were getting ready to say goodbye to those places that had grown on us, becoming part of our daily routine, and to those marvellous people we now called friends.

The same people that helped us design and build the frame for the solar panels; that gave us tips on how to fix bits and pieces, and advised us on places to visit and restaurants where to try the best of the local cuisine.




With them we shared our concern about that engine which made a rattling noise when on; we laughed when one of us – I mean GC ! –  ended up in the water once or twice when, jumping from the boat, he missed the pontoon.

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With them we were on the radio at 4am, when gusts of 40 knots of wind swooped on Gladan with no notice, in the island of Salina, causing the gennaker to flap open and disanchoring many boats around us.

We managed to lower the gennaker and put it away and made a flash decision to pull the anchor up and leave the bay, right when a boat was about to crash on us. At full throttle, with rain hitting our face with rage, we slalomed through the many boats and went out at sea – the safest place to be in these circumstances.

We wondered around for couple of hours waiting for the sun to raise and the wind to calm down before being able to drop anchor again. Our friends were in the bay next to us. Their presence was reassuring and made us live the storm with a different spirit – knowing we were on the lookout for each other.


Thanks to them, we discovered the restaurant Le Siciliane, in Capo D’Orlando downtown, whose host, Calogero, is not only a talented chef cooking with seasonal, fresh ingredients, but also a very skilled practitioner of shiatsu massages –  keen on fixing your cervical while delighting your palate.


I still remember when one night after dinner, having seen me in pain, touching my neck, he reappeared from a back door with a portable massage-chair and gave me a 10minute massage right in the middle of the restaurant! I went back home with a fixed neck and dreamy eyes still picturing before them a delicious carpaccio of freshly picked porcini mushrooms followed by a mouthwatering plate of porcini tagliatelle. 


You feel so nostalgic when it’s time to leave, and realise how lucky you’ve been to meet such special people. You start thinking that maybe traveling is not that great if you have to keep moving on, even when you’ve found people who make you feel at home.


Then you force yourself a bit and set sails – the sea is calling. It’s time to go again. Arrivederci amici. I’m sure the wind will blow us towards you again one day.


P.S. Read Patty’s amazing blog on life at sea & more…


Sailing towards Cefalu’

We set off from Capo D’Orlando Marina around midday on a Sunday morning.


It was a glorious day of sunshine and the wind was very little: it never went over 9.5 knots. We opened the jib but kept one engine on. Gc read on the Lagoon forum that it’s a good custom to alternate the engines: so we use one at a time; it doesn’t make a big difference in terms of speed and we consume less fuel and engine hours. We turn both on only when there are strong headwinds or when we need to manoeuvre.

_DSC1197On route, there was a moment of excitement when we thought we were going to eat fish for dinner. The fishing rod kept bending forward and Gc really struggled to reel the line in. It must have been a big fish. Probably a tuna.

May is the mating season for tuna and swordfish so you find big specimens out there looking for a date. An adult bluefin tuna weighs on average 250 Kgs!


Gc fought with the fish for fifteen minutes, rocking back and forth with the rod, trying to slowly pull it in without rushing it: the objective is to get the fish tired before pulling it in, otherwise it still has enough energy to unhook itself or pull you in for an unwanted dip. Tunas are swift swimmers and travel at a speed of up to 72.5 Km/hour so you don’t want to be towed around by them.

My contribution to the fishing exercise was mainly verbal: “Come on Gc, bring the sushi on, keep pulling!”. I avoided any parallelism with the very famous “The old man and the sea” as recently Gc had become quite aware of the growing number of grey hair.


In preparation for the catch, I grabbed fishing net and grappa and had them ready to be used. I chose the grappa made by Nino, a Sicilian friend, thinking the fish would depart from this world on better terms with a mouthful of orange-flavoured grappa, zero food miles. It turned out the fish wasn’t ready to die at all and swam away leaving us and the Sicilian grappa behind.


_DSC0280Thirty-five nautical miles and many snacks later, we arrived at Cefalu’; it was just after 6 pm.


We decided to stay at anchor just outside the small harbour, in what is definitely a picturesque scenery: ahead of us a rocky promontory and on top of it, standing out against a clear blue sky, the remains of some stone buildings.

After settling in, we had a refreshing swim and found a small beach on which to do a bit of yoga and some push-ups. Exercise is always welcome after many hours of sailing.

We took a hot shower, left the dingy inside the port and walked to the town centre.


The landscape was grand and when the sun started to set we experienced a feeling of fullness which was then taken to the next level by a beautifully cooked dinner at La Botte, in a side street of the main road, Via Vittorio Emanuele. A bottle of Rapitala’ (grapes grillo, catarratto and chardonnay), a freshly fished sea bream for me and ravioli alla cernia with langoustine sauce for Gc. Had life ended there and then, we would have had no regrets.

Or maybe just one: I didn’t allow Gc to order a dessert.




Vulcano – Eolian islands

Visiting Vulcano island is an experience that sticks with you for a while: if anything the smell of sulphur certainly will!

We got to Vulcano easily after 3 and half hours sailing. There was little wind so we had to motor almost all the way there from Milazzo.


The sea was finally calm after a few stormy days, some whirlwinds still forming in the sky, stretching all the way to the water.


Incredible to see at a distance – not very pleasant to experience directly with the boat, I’m sure.

We anchored on the eastern side of the island, Porto Levante, opposite Fumaroles Beach, where the mud pond and the hot springs are.

The morning after we decided to climb up the vulcano. The only one still active on the archipelago, together with the more spectacular Stromboli.

It’s an easy walk, not to steep and the vulcano is only 386 metres high. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water as there are no refreshments available along the way.


Once on top the view is grand: the huge crater below you, the blue sea all around and the gas emissions coming up the volcanic soil: the so called fumaroles. Make sure you don’t breathe them in for too long tough, they are quite toxic.


We walked along the edge of the crater and managed to spot Gladan, safely anchored in the well sheltered bay.


It was quite hot on top, despite it being the beginning of October, and our stomachs had started to rumble so we decided to make our way back to the centre and enjoy a well deserved meal after our short but intense adventure!


After lunch we went back to the boat and had a very pleasant surprise: some fishermen came around with their boat offering some freshly fished capone and gamberoni. What a dream! With 15 Euros we secured a delicious dinner for the 4 of us. DCIM100MEDIADJI_0033.JPG

We couldn’t leave the island without visiting the mud pond and experiencing the ticklish sensation of swimming above the hot springs. It’s 3 euros to access the pond so we paid the entrance and made our way to the mud pool.


I did it many times as a teenager when the entry was still free and I remember the funny looking people all covered in mud walking around the pool waiting for it to dry out. Somehow though I did not remember it being so gross…!

When we stepped in the initial feeling was of disgust! You really feel like a pig crawling into mud…and there are so many people in such a small space.

After the first few odd minutes though we started to enjoy it. The mud was hot and felt very good, forming a protective layer and gently releasing heat on the skin.

The abrasive consistency of the mud and the acidity of the sulphuric acid peel off your dead skin and leave you with a baby skin when you wash it away. The mud treatments are also supposed to be highly beneficial for arthritis, cervical and skin problems.

And there is always the fun side of it! Who can resist the temptation of turning into incredible Hulk for a few hours..

Once the mud is dry and you get tired of the very intense smell of sulphur surrounding you, it’s time for you to go down the staircase and immerge your body in the warm sea water. Follow the bubbles coming up from the sea bottom and you’ll find the hot springs. Relax while washing off the mud. Be careful as you should definitely try not to get any in your eyes as Gc very well knows!

A quick stop at the supermarket to buy some Insolia wine and some crisps to accompany our G&T and there we were, back aboard of Gladan, sipping our aperitif and getting the bbq ready for the night. We had fresh fish to cook…What a treat!


The day after we started making our way to Lipari but stopped very soon for a yoga session on the beach of the Faraglioni. The perfect spot to feel blessed and perform a sun salutation while breathing in the sun and breathing out all your worries…if you still have any left after such a great time around the Eolian islands!


Alicudi – Eolian Islands

Our friends came to visit us and we spent some nice days sailing around the Eolian islands. The sun was still hot and it felt like summer during the day. At night though, temperatures dropped and it was not always comfortable to eat outside on the deck.

Alicudi was our first stop: the island with no roads and no vehicles. Houses didn’t even have electricity until the ‘90ies.


We decided this would be our first stop as the weather conditions were ideal: there was barely any wind. Since Alicudi doesn’t have any bay where to get shelter from the prevailing winds, this was the right day to be there.

We spent the night at one of the mooring buoys on the left hand side of the port, paying 30 Euros, despite the initial request for 50.

While sailing towards Alicudi, we had been reading about the many legends from the island. Apparently, locals used to bake an hallucinogenic bread and feed on it daily. That would cause for them to report seeing witches and dressed up pigs flying around the island.

Once ashore, we chose one of the walking trails suggested on a map at the bottom of the stone steps. We picked the “very difficult” one: 3 and 1/2 hours, bottom-top and back.


We started to climb the steps and bumped almost immediately into a suntanned, short and tired-looking man pulling a mule up the steps of the island, in slow motion. The mule, we were told, was carrying a wooden box full of earth, weighing 100 kgs.


The island has no roads and the only way to move across the villages is climbing up and down the steep, stone-cladded steps that like a maze go around the cone shaped island, connecting the few houses and shops scattered around.


Half way through the climb up, already sweaty and warned down by the fatigue, we stopped in front of a sign “We sell capers”. Pippo, a 45 years old well built man greeted us assuring that his capers were ‘capers only’, unlike the others which are fully covered in salt.


We had only been exchanging a few words, when he invited us on his terrace saying: “come see my oven”! Pippo was in distress as the night before the oven had exploded due to a gas leak. His wife was cooking one of his favourite meals “turciniuna”, a Sicilian dish made with animal guts, when at some point there had been an explosion and the entire kitchen had been filled by potatoes, peas and guts!

pippo's house

Luckily enough none of them was around when that happened so no one got harmed.

Most of the Alicudi inhabitants, who happen to be his 11 siblings and some relatives, had precipitated to see him and make sure nobody was hurt. Pippo’s dog escaped and it was nowhere to be found.

One hour later, knowing everything about Pippo and his past- he was a fisherman and navigated the Med for many years; he was shot at in Spain when fishing illegally in a bay; he was meant to go to Australia but was caught by the police just outside the travel agency and forced to join the navy (military service was still compulsory back then)- we decided to continue our adventure and go all the way to the top.


We stopped once more before climbing up the crater: this time we met Piero, one of Pippo’s brothers, who was so kind as to give us some cold water (which is as precious as gold considering that a mule has to carry it all the way up the island on its back!) while answering some of our many questions. How long would it take for him to walk up and down? How could people build houses and transport all the material up there? And most importantly…did he know about Pippo’s oven?!

We managed to get to the top and finally saw the crater: well… it was a wild crater, only bushes and goats paths! No view to enjoy!

Exhausted and hungry, we started our descend and followed the path back to the port where, in no time, we took our clothes off and went for a long, refreshing swim in the crystalline sea. We then rested our tired bodies on the beautifully dark, sandy beach.

While relaxing on the hot stones a train of images swirled in my head. The wilderness of the island, the hostile look of the cactuses contrasting the delicacy of the coloured flowers: cyclamen, narcissus, bouganville. The olive trees, the oranges, the capers…the mules. What an incredible island!me