The NauticEd team sailed the Aeolian Islands of Sicily in June 2017. Subsequently, we are rating this as the number one sailing vacation destination in the world – read why.
This is Day 1 and 2 of sailing in Sicily with Spartivento Yacht Charter Group
See our pre-trip visit to Palermo; capital city of Sicily.
We sailed with Spartivento Yacht Charter out of Porto Rosa Marina. Spartivento are a modern professional yacht charter company. Their boats are new and well appointed, they are Jeanneau and Lagoon dealers and they own the marina and restaurant at Porto Rosa. The base Manager, Lora, is a New York Sicilian so speaks perfect English and is easy and fun to chat with. The other staff on site also speak flawless English. Lora has a vast knowledge of the islands and can give good little extra tips and tricks.
Side note: NauticEd are sailing vacation agents for Spartivento. If you want to charter in what we rate as the number one sailing vacation destination in the world, contact us here and we can set everything up for you. We don’t charge you a fee and you get the same price as going direct except you get all our knowledge and expertise as to the logistics as well.
Why are the Aeolian Islands number one?
- Very inexpensive
- Easy to get to
- Fantastic sailing ground
- Plenty of off-the-boat adventures
- Impressive scenery of multiple volcanoes
- Excellent food
- Fantastically tasty wine
- Friendly people
- Good charter companies
- Warm water (for the Med)
- Rife with history
- Deep water with little hazards
- Line of sight navigation
- Not crowded
- Palermo is an excellent pre or post city for a stayover
Day 1: Sailing in Sicily
The Aeolian Islands on the north east side of Sicily are an impressive array of volcanic islands; mostly with the classic volcano shapes and a really spectacular area to visit for a sailing vacation.
Let’s take a quick Google Earth tour around so that you can get the lay of the islands.
Prior to getting there we did some pretty extensive research on the island group. The information was not that easy to track down. Lots of people have small positings but there was nothing in one place. So we hope to make this and an upcoming eBook a Aeolian resource for everyone.
Our Base Manager Lora, did an awesome job of showing us the island group on our chart briefing.
Her briefing pretty much confirmed our research on what to squeeze into 1 week. Although we’d recommend two weeks in this group. The problem with one week is that you just don’t have enough time to hang in all the beautiful villages and experience the culture.Any time you captain a boat on a sailing vacation you’ve got to check the boat out, inventory the items and get familiar with the systems. Here are a few pics us doing a boat check out prior to leaving the dock
Ready? Set Go! Right? No matter how hard you try to get out of the marina on time on a sailing vacation, it is just not going to happen. So chill! We’d booked to board the boat early at 11am to get out of dodge. Our actual time to drop the Corpo Morto was 16:40.
The Corpa Morto in Italy is the concrete block sunken out from the quay about 50 meters (160 ft). A heavy thick line attaches to the Corpo Morto and runs along the bottom back towards the quay which is changed out to a thin line which runs up to the surface at the quay. When you back up to the quay you pick up the thin line with a boat hook and hand over hand run it forward to the bow cleat. This is tightened up pulling the boat off and away from the quay. Aft lines run tight to the quay to finally position the stern of the boat approximately 1 meter (3 ft) from the quay. This is the classic Mediterranean mooring.
Anyway, given the time, and 5 knots of wind under a gorgeous clear blue sky, we elected to get in our first sail for 20 minutes then turn on the iron genny (engine). About 20 minutes before the first stop the wind picked up to a nice 12 knots, but given that the center console was loaded up with Sicilian wine, olives, tomatoes with balsamic and olive oil, we didn’t feel like clearing away the Sicilian delights for a quick sail. First stop was the Island of Volcano to a bay in the south called Gelso. We wasted no time getting into the water for a swim. Water in the Med is typically quite fresh but further south in Sicily it is not bad at about 24 deg C (77 deg F). Gelso is a really nice remote bay for a first stop.
Moving on we motored to the next island Lipari and Med-moored at Marina Lunga. The guys at Marina Lunga are really helpful when docking up and have a great attitude towards visitors. The Mooring fee is E50 which is typical through out the island chain. It includes water and electricity. It’s a bit expensive compared to Greece which was typical E5 but every thing else that was cheap cheap cheap made up for it.
The village there is lively with lots of bars and good restaurants. There happened to be the European cup for soccer/football going on between a local Spain and Torino, Italy team. Spain won so there wasn’t too much craziness in the streets. It would have been a different story if Italy had won.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian islands so it is not to be missed. There are two places to dock. Porto Pignataro which is quieter but more of a walk into town. Marina Lungo is a 500 meter walk into the village but is affected by the wake waves of the ferries coming and going so your choice. Personally, being rocked to sleep is fine with me. There is a big grocery store in the village also for restocking if you like.
In our Maneuver and Dock your Sailboat Under Power book and course we cover Mediterranean Mooring extensively. Essentially, you back up until you can reach the “slimeline” which is a line running to the corpo morto from the dock. You pick up the line and run it forward. It’s called a slimeline because it is usually covered in slimy nasty stuff on the bottom of a marina. You pull on the slimeline to pull your boat off the dock then cleat it to a forward cleat.
Here is a slime line (not so slimy because of the clear water) running down from the dock.
And here is a catamaran with the slime line cleated to the front.
You know, chartering with a group is a test of if you are a patient person or not. If you are patient and chill, you will have a good time. i.e. if you want to get going onto the next gorgeous place and if several people want to go to the grocery store, then it should be done in parallel not series. So, first thing at 11am, we pulled out to head to Panarea Island but not before we loaded up on a 1.5 kg (4lbs) chunk of swordfish for sushi lunch later. Wind velocity? Not so much! Direction? Head on! Thus, putt putt broom broom off we headed.
The next island to the north of Lipari is Panarea. Which is a very Chic island with modern Greek style houses. Slightly to the north east a few miles is a smaller uninhabited group of islands and so we elected to spend the daytime exploring those which we were told is a “do not miss” visit.
First stop – Basiluzzo, which is a spectacular island rising virtually and high out of the water with swirling rock layers.
We anchored and rafted up the two boats close to the walls. Side note: when ever you raft up monohulls, you have to make sure that you stagger the boats off center a little so that the mast spreaders don’t bang into each other as boat wakes roll through. Use spring lines running aft to center and forward to center to properly position the boats together.
Tap the photo – it is a 360 view.
We had a great swim stop here. The water was so clear. Here is another 360 shot.
For lunch – the Sushi or course. OMG – Fresh raw swordfish slathered in Olive oil, Lemon juice and layer with Balsamic glaze. Wow!!!
Next, we moved south a little to the Island of Lisca Bianca and Bottaro. At the north end of Bottaro is something crazy. A dozen underwater volcanic vents bubble gas up from the bottom to the surface. The smell is a really disgusting pungent sulpur smell – whew- worse than an old boat’s head mixed with sweaty socks. Anyway despite that, it is worth it. Take a mask and an underwater camera.
Next, we moved back south to the southern end of Panarea. Cala Di Junco is a really REALLY nice bay and day or overnight anchorage. This was a fantastic downwind run so we set our gennaker that the charter company rented to us for the week for about 100E. The word sailing comes from a root word in Portuguese meaning for friends to race. Not really! But what is true is that anytime there are two sailboats there is automatically a race. Our friends on Mystral the other Jeanneau 52 whooped our butt to the Cala Di Junco. Mostly because of luck and maybe slightly because one of the crew has spent 3 or 4 lifetimes racing and we might have rigged it so that the tack was too high off the deck and maybe because we forgot to twist in the top of the mainsail and a few other tweaks that we could have done if we weren’t enjoying the local Prosecco so much. Fun!
On shore there is a set of steps where you can hike up to a spectacular commanding view. The area is a site of bronze age sheep farmers from 1500 BC – yes BC! Remnants of their houses and stock pens are still there and preserved. Here is a 360 view. Simply Gorgeous.
Here’s another shot in case you can’t see the 360.
Ok next – as if we could fit more into a day, we moved to the town of S. Peitro which is the main village on Panarea. We moored up on the north end of the town. The marina managers come out in big dinghies and help with forward and aft mooring lines. Every one in the bay must moor up like this. They then offer a free taxi service ashore which is part of your 50E mooring fee. The bars and restaurants are a definite visit albeit a wee bit expensive but very chic.
We started at Bar Banacalii
And then progressed to Hotel Raya which has an outdoor patio high up over the cliff which produces a gorgeous view of the marina and the Island of Stromboli 11 nm to the north. At night you can see the red lava exploding out of Stromboli.
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