A Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Part 2: Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Malta and Tunisia

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This page is part 2 of a report in 2 parts, covering the year of 1998.

Sighting Stromboli
Stroboli from the north
We arrived at Stromboli one morning after an over night sail from Capri in the north. The weather was settled which allowed us to drop anchor in front of a black beach outside the settlement called Bartolomeo. The volcano was puffing smoke and small rocks through the crater above us. That is also where Jules Verne's heroes exited after their trip to "The Centre of the Earth". The place has been om my mind ever since I read the novel as a teen ager. The adventures of Odysseus (or Ulysses) had helped feed my imagination as had, off course, also Rosselini's film, starring Ingrid Bergman.

of the Tyrrenian sea.

The name of this island is Volcano!
Swordfishing in the Messina Strait
There are two guys looking out at the mast head!
The anchor holding was not very good at Stromboli and, as there was a gale warning (burrasca in Italian) we chose not to stay over night. Instead we moved on to Panarea, one of the other Aeolian Islands (also known as the Lipari Islands). We also visited the islands of Lipari and Vulcano (yes, that's the name of this island, which has five volcanos, at least one of them still active).
Mediterranean sailing

Our passage through the Messina Strait, between mythical Scylla and Charybdis, was pleasant in almost calm weather, with the adverse south east storm (thuella, which blew Odysseus back to Lipari) kept tightly in the famous sack. In the afternoon fresh winds picked up from the north and we had a boisterous sail to Taormina. Apparently the winds funnel into an acceleration zone between Sicily and the mainland. Between Taormina and Syracuse there was again no wind and we motored a whole day with Etna, Europe's largest volcano, in sight, spewing smoke and rocks. Later we read that Etna had been particularly active for a while and later that year the volcano had a major eruption and some of the villages on the slopes had to be avacuated.

of our route from Stromboli to Tunis.

Valletta postcard
All space is taken
City of old cars
Malta has a colorful past and is still a surreal place, with a language that sounded to me similar to Arabic, but most people also speak English (as the country became a British colony after the Napoleon wars, before gaining independence). During the years the place has survived and assimilated various invaders and rulers. Resisting pirates and slavetraders, the inhabitants of these three islands consisting of sun-drenched rocks, terraced slopes and turquoise coves have been obliged to use their smartness and their fortifications. Walls seem to surround almost all islands.

From Malta we sailed to Tunisia, where we stayed most of the time in the marina at Sidi Bou Said, not far from the Capital Tunis and near the ruins of old Carthage (Carthago). It seems that wherever you sail in the middle and eastern Mediterranean you are never far from History. For a person like me, whose favourite subject at school was history, the whole journey of 1998 was particularly satisfying.

Unfortunately the journey (and even the whole season) didn't end very well. On the way between Tunisia and the Balearic Islands we were hit by one of the worst storms we have experienced - Force 10 right on the nose when still 100 nm south of Menorca. With the exception of a torn head sail and a broken down (soaked) anchor windlass (I made a temporary switch, hosed in a been can, seen on the photo above) we were, however, unharmed. The experience was probably more uncomfortable than dangerous.

But a worse surprise was still in store for us: When we hauled out Scorpio for maintenance we discovered that she had blisters in the hull below the water line. We had planned to sail to the Costa del Sol (the Spanish Sunshine Coast) later that year, and perhaps even to the West Indies, but those plans were now cancelled. Instead we decided to leave the yacht on the hard for 9 months to dry out completely before starting the osmosis treatment.

We were facing a long break from cruising and living aboard.

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