Sunday 24 April
Once we’d ‘remembered’ on Saturday that there are two tides a day, the navigator realised that a favourable current flowing northward through the Straits of Messina’s narrow gap would happen in the morning as well as in the evening. The flows were with the aid of a handy Italian app which indicated leaving around 09:00. It’s about an hour to the narrow dogleg where even big ships can’t fight a contrary current and at peak flow, whirlpools and eddies can endanger smaller craft.
Our passage through was easy, reaching Punta Pezzo just after the turn. Enroute from Reggio we called Messina VTS to inform them of our intentions, which seemed to gain their approval, though they did call us back to check their facts later. Yes Temptress is only 14m long not 140! Once through and clear of the spit on the other bank, Capo Peloro, we turned westwards. The day passed uneventfully with spectacular views of the north coast of Sicily and distant hazy ones through the dust laden air to faint shapes of Stromboli and the other Aeolian Islands. Most of the crew were developing a slight sniffle or a cough in response to the fine red dust. The bonus came at sunset and dawn when the dust produced spectacular red and orange horizons.
Early afternoon Temptress managed to sail for about an hour then the wind switched off again and it was back to engine power. The water maker is working well so we topped up the tanks whilst the batteries were charging. Late evening after an excellent supper created by chef Sue a lone small bottle nose dolphin came to play in the bow wave.
Monday 25 April
The dawn was cold and dewy damp but an amazing layer of colours from the dark velvet blue of the night sky overhead to the palest of oranges where sky and sea met. The moon is waning and had risen late. All night the lights of Palermo had loomed off to port and a handful of fishing boats had kept the crew alert. As the sun rose the early ferry’s from mainland Italy crossed behind us. There was a slight breeze from the west but not enough to sail until around 09:00. We unfurled the genoa and set a course more north westerly. Temptress revelled in the beat and gradually as Sicily was left behind the wind subtly slipped more south so we could not only free off to a fetch but come down to just 20 degrees off our intended westward course though the speed dropped as the wind started to become fitful. By noon we’d managed 139nm since noon the previous day, 154nm since leaving Reggio Calabria.
Ice creams from Caesar’s, a walk along the town’s impressive pedestrianised Main Street and our wonderful lunch in a back street cafe of Reggio were becoming a distant memory. Life at sea slipped into a rhythm, three night watches with two crew each from 21:00 to 06:00, daylight hours punctuated by mealtimes. Each morning we set a trolling line but apart from losing a precious lure to something large enough to chew through the metal trace we’ve had little joy. There’s little bird life and few dolphins, a sad testament to a sea that’s been fished out by the nations that surround it.
The watches catch up on sleep, snoozing when they could or quietly reading in their bunks and enjoying the heat of the sun for the few hours around midday. The mornings and evenings are chilly, a reminder that summer is not yet here. Thermals, mid layers and oilies are requisite during the night, shorts and t-shirts welcome at midday. We all seem in a constant state of changing clothing, adding an subtracting layers as the day progresses.
After lunch the wind died again. We hoped this might herald the change to the forecast easterlies that should blow us downwind to the Spanish coast six or seven hundred nautical miles south west of us. Meanwhile Temptress motored again on a course that would take us under Sardinia. Cagliari had been a possible port of refuge should the weather turn foul when we were planning this trip but wasn’t going to be needed.
Ships Log: Noon to Noon – 139nm, since Messolonghi – 444nm