North Sicily with Liesa & Lukas

We were very excited for Thomas’ youngest sister Liesa and her boyfriend Lukas to arrive. They told us beforehand they were looking forward to the sailing and wanted to learn a thing or two as well. That sounded perfect to us as well and we made big plans. We would cruise the north coast: visit Palermo and head over to the Aeolian Islands, watch the spectacular Stromboli erupt, zip back to the Egadi islands and do the 1,5 day sail back to Sardinia where they would take a plane back home.

The reality was a bit different.. Lukas’ luggage didn’t make the stopover and was still in Rome when they arrived to Sicily. ‘No stress’, the airline said, ‘we can deliver the suitcase. At which address are you staying?’. Well, that’s a difficult question! It was also the middle of the night, so Thomas and I couldn’t just go into town asking someone to use their address. There was no other option left than pick up the luggage in person the next day. The lack of an address can definitely be a downside of living on a boat!

Despite the missing suitcase, we were relieved that Lukas and Liesa did made it to Mondello. They had to endure a very bumpy first night. We reassured them that we never have had such uncomfortable anchorage, not sure they believed it or that we just tried to keep them motivated for the two weeks to come.. Because of the suitcase we left for Palermo the next morning and kept trying to reach the airport to give them an address of the marina we would be staying – with no success. So we just enjoyed the day in this amazing capital of Sicily, and Lukas and Liesa had to take an early bus to the airport the next morning.

Palermo is very much Italian: chique art nouveau buildings, narrow streets, amazing restaurants, beautiful church facades and many stylish Italians. When we came back from our night out there was a line with extremely fancy looking young Italians in front of the marina gate, obviously ready to party. We got some strange looks when we pushed ourselves through the crowd and opened the gate with our marina key. We were not even wearing proper shoes! There turned out to be a big party on the pontoon next to ours. It got really loud but we slept like babies – we were exhausted and there may have been some alcohol involved. I tried to complain the next day (I am turning into my mother) but instead of caring they somehow kicked us out!

We were ready for some sailing now.. This time the weather was not cooperating, so we had to abandon our plans of sailing east to Stromboli (heavy hearted). So we headed back west again towards Scopello. There is a deserted tuna processing factory and a stunning landscape with a shallow anchorage. It was getting late, but our chances of staying overnight weren’t good. The wind was blowing exactly in the wrong direction, it was too deep and the only shallow place was taken by a catamaran (and that was way too close to a big rock for a carefree night sleep). There were no other suitable anchorages around so we had to rush to a marina before dark.

We turned on the engine – nothing. Tried again with the house batteries (a little trick that sometimes works when the starter is acting up) – nothing. Cranked again and again, and finally it worked but water was pouring out of the cylinders. Thomas got an enormous shock, as he was working on the engine daily now and was not ready for more trouble. When we finally had it running, we were afraid to turn it off so we rushed into the nearest marina in Castellomare del Golfo. We were ripped off here by the oremaggiori (who help you dock) which didn’t help in brightening our moods.

Thomas and I went into town for a gelato. Castellomare is an exceptionally pretty town, most of it built onto an ancient bastion along the coast. There was some kind of local catholic festivity going on with a macaber looking Maria statue, loads of chanting and fireworks. A bit of distance from the engine did Thomas good and he came up with an idea which could be the cause for all our engine trouble. Back on the boat, Thomas checked the parts he suspected could be broken and found a broken impeller! That’s something he replaced in Cagliari, but it was an old spare so the rubber was probably old and brittle. He swapped it back for the old impeller and we were back in the game!

To recover from our failing engine we went looking for a white beach and clear water to swim, read and chill for a day or two. We found exactly that at San Vito Lo Capo, the northwestern most tip of Sicily. Thomas couldn’t help himself and instead of taking it slow he got into the next boat project: installing the AIS. Liesa brought that with her (among with many other things we ordered to Germany). AIS is a system which receives the position of other boats and sends out our position. We have a chart plotter (basically a navigation system) which connects to the AIS and shows exactly where the other boats are, their speed, direction, name etc. Super useful if it works! For now, we needed some more cables and Thomas had to take half the boat apart before those little boat icons would show up on our plotter. Poor Liesa and Lukas, vacationing amidst the chaos caused by boat projects!

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