10. Farting Volcanoes

I left my new-found friends the following morning with an aim to reach Lipari in the Aeolians before it was dark. I also wanted to time it so that I passed through the Messina Strait at around 2 pm as this would give me a 2.5 knot current pushing me through the strait. I managed to time the currents perfectly but arrived at Lipari 15 minutes after sunset. For a Swede, a Mediterranean sunset is a very different experience. I am used to the long summer nights when it takes up to an hour for the sun to set and that it never really gets that dark as the sun never really dips that far below the horizon. In the Mediterranean, sunset is a 15-minute affair. At best. And then it gets pitch black. But those 15 minutes are often spectacular! This meant that I had a beautiful approach to Lipari in the west but that I had to anchor in the dark with the city lights as my only guide. I chose a spot next to three larger boats outside a marina. A little too close to land for my liking and in waters deeper than ideal. The next morning, I also found out that the anchor had landed in thick vegetation as I started dragging as soon as the wind picked up just before lunch time.

Lipari Island at dusk

I weighed anchor and left Lipari before I got to go ashore. The town looked really interesting but my only choice would have been to go to any of the marinas and they did not look that inviting. I was not that keen on mooring alone in what was now 20 knots of sustained wind as I had watched larger crews screw up their port maneuvers all morning. Also, Italian marinas at high season are generally really expensive.

I opted to go to Isola Volcano only a few miles south of Lipari. We visited this volcanic island back in 2016 when we were moving in the opposite direction. Our impression at the time was that the island was yellow and that it smelled of what made it yellow. Sulphur. Which meant it smelled like someone had passed wind. My kids had immediately named it Fart Island. The main attraction on the island was the volcanic mud baths that predominantly appealed to overweight people that we frequently saw covered in smelly mud on their way walking from the mud pools to the sea. These mud baths were supposed to have a positive impact on metabolism and attracted visitors from far afield.

But this time I was not attracted by the pools or the smell at Fart Island. I knew the island had a large bay that should offer better anchoring conditions in the gradually increasing winds. When I arrived, it was clear that I was not the only one that had this thought. The bay was filled with hundreds of boats and after a long time I managed to find a small patch that was shallow enough to anchor in. A little platform with 9 metres depth in an area that otherwise had depths of around 30 metres or so. The top of an underwater hill if you like. I dropped the hook and watched numerous boats circle the bay looking for a place to anchor. I also watched two French couples on a very small boat that had been hit by another boat when they were on land. There was quite a lot of damage but it was clear that the incident had been noted by a large number of their neighbours and they were eventually approached by two men from the boat that had inflicted the damage who came aboard for a two hour long heated discussion that provided entertainment for the rest of the bay.

All boats in the bay were forced to anchor close together in the strong winds. Saoirse had neighbouring boats that at times were within a boat length of the bow and on both sides. Fortunately, it was clear behind as the depth increased dramatically. I decided to spend another night onboard and fell asleep around 11 pm. After about an hour I woke up. Something did not feel right. I looked out of the hatch and was welcomed by a different view. I was clearly dragging and the anchor was at this stage probably hanging vertically below Saoirse. Engine on as well as navigation lights, instruments, windlass and deck lights. It was pitch black and if trying to find a place to moor during the day was a challenge trying it at night was a nightmare. In fact, this is the only time during my solo sail that I really missed having a crew. I tried to go back to the same place twice but ended up drifting out to deeper areas before I got the anchor to the bottom of my shallow patch. It was really hard to drive the boat from the stern and get to the bow to operate the windlass before the wind had pushed the boat several boat lengths. Before the season had started, I had bought a remote control for the windlass to be able to handle situations like this from the cockpit. But the remote control was still safely stored in its box as I had not yet had it installed. Shame on me!

I eventually found a spot right next to a cargo ship that was offloading supplies for the island all night. A much noisier and fully lit anchorage but with good holding in suitable depths. The noise, light and smell could not stop me from sleeping through the rest of the night.

After another night on board, it was nice to see that the strong winds were settling again. I decided to leave reasonably early and go to Panarea, an island in the Aeolians that I had not yet visited. After a beautiful upwind sail with the genoa alone, I approached a somewhat exposed anchorage outside the harbour. There were buoys laid but also lots of space to anchor. The marinero that approached me said that he wanted €100 a day for a buoy. Apparently, that included transport to the village and back to the boat. But still, I found this ridiculous, especially as wind had died out by now. I stayed three nights on anchor outside the village and did not see a single boat take a mooring buoy.

Panarea was a beautiful island where electric golf carts and mopeds formed the only modes of transport. The village was filled with narrow streets lined with small shops selling handicrafts and clothes, hotels, hostels, restaurants and bars. This little gem was filled with primarily Italian tourists. The island only lies a few miles away from Stromboli where the volcano lit the sky every twenty minutes or so all through the night. I really liked Panarea!

Taxi rank in Panarea
Stromboli seen from Panarea

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