June 25, 2011


we arrived in a beautiful spot in giardini naxos and anchored and relaxed after the rocky and wet arrival. from the anchorage we had the most amazing view. we could see the town bordering the shore and also anther city high above the cliffs called taormina. finally we had mount etna at a distance with some snow still in the summit. it was a view to remember for sure.

we relaxed in the town for a few days and walked around naxos and also taormina. we visited the old theater and the streets full of restaurants and shops. we later discovered that taormina is one of the jewel cities of Europe, or something of that sort. we now understand why. everything looked too beautiful and fancy as well.

after enjoying ourselves in sicily; paying the most expensive diesel of the entire trip so far; and checking and double checking the weather and tides in preparation for the messina crossing, we finally headed north. the messina strait is known, at least among sailors; as a little body of water that must be crossed with caution. It is only 3 miles long and possibly 4 miles wide. it separates sicily from calabria in italy. the wind generally funnels from the mountains on either side and increases its speed significantly; and also, and this is the difficult part: the currents change every 6 hours from north to south but can run at very strong or high speeds. from reading some guides we knew that if we had some wind against and a minor current against, maybe our boat with engine and sail would not overcome the south going stream; so we definitely had to prepare to cross with a north current and hopefully favorable wind. the wind part has not been in our favor since many months ago, so hoping for a good south easterly in this part of the world was out of the question. It blows from the north west and it blows hard. so the best we could hope for was little or no wind at all. Unfortunately we were having constant 20 kts every day in the area. not good. finally the current is calculated based on the tides in Gibraltar at UTC time and for some reason this calculations are not always accurate… why there is not a simple tide table strictly for messina with local times is beyond me, or maybe we just couldn’t find it in the books, guides or the internet.

so, with our experience of strong winds so far in the med, plus the gale of a few days before and a forecast for the next weeks of at least 15 knots, we were getting a bit anxious and preoccupied about crossing this strait. luckily one night we felt the wind die down and we took the opportunity and just left. we had calculated the tides but were not sure if we were going to make it on a good time before the tide started to run south. but we left through the night and motor sailed with some boat traffic through the strait. finally when we arrived at the most complicated and narrow part of the strait we could not believe our luck: the wind died, the water was flat and the current was favorable; and we glided through in less that 30 minutes. once again, maybe we were lucky, or it was our accurate calculations and good planning…? Good planning sounds better I think!

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