Panarea Bay, Sailing Aeolian

Sailing Aeolian Islands. Review intro.

At the beginning of August, we’ve discovered the charm of the Sailing Aeolian Islands adventure. It was the first Naleia Yachting pilot-trip. The idea behind it: Only one boat discovers a new destination and checks out the mood and ´yachtablity´ of the place. Our verdict: The Aeolians arethe place to marvel at natural phenomena, eat mouth watering food and enjoy anchorages where the swell gently puts you to sleep!

Below is a summarized log of this unforgettable first Naleia Yachting pilot-trip.

Portorosa 02.08

  • A neat and very big marina / resort. Channels all over the place, holiday houses, shops and restaurants. Although we wondered why you would rent a house there (there is no village or city but only this enormous marina), we were still happy that the shoreline is not harbor-like but decorated with palms, channels, bungalows and inexpensive restaurants. Suitable surroundings for the first and last night of our trip!
  • The supermarket in the marina. It`s rather small, but still well equipped. They know that people do shopping for the whole week of a sailing trip, so they keep their stocks high. Problem is that it`s said to be 20% more expensive than supermarkets in neighboring towns. If you do not have a car – it`s rather difficult to supply your boat anywhere else, so consider a good research before and calculating the taxi to and from the market.
  • After ‘moving in’ (swift and easy), unpacking, supplying the yacht and having a shower, we opened a few bottles of wine and went to try the local restaurants. Pizza was delicious as well as Vino Di Casa, so, we ended up being very merry and well prepared for the following first day of sailing.

Portorosa-Volcano 03.08

  • We started the first sailing day with a gorgeous breakfast (fried eggplant with onion in omelet) prepared by our on-board hobby chef (Matthias, we love you!).
  • Marty.nica is a wonderful 44ft yacht (built 2008), kept in very good shape, and rather fast (Beneteau). We had almost no wind in the morning, but ended up with 18kn of beam reach wind in the afternoon. Martynica did her best and we reached 8.4 kn of speed.  🙂
  • We made a lunch stop on the southern side of Volcano island and went snorkeling in azure waters.
    Memo: There is a promising beach bar, so next time when sailing around the Aeolian islands, we should leave the marina already on Saturday and have a drink or two on the southernmost beach of Volcano.
  • The Aeolians are all volcanic area, thus famous for their black beaches!
    Besides using the pumice to scrub off old skin of our heels, we also enjoyed fooling around with the unusual consistency of the black pumice-sand.
  • Leaving the first stop behind, wind conditions forced us to roll the sails, so we engined to a bay in the north of the island (Porto Di Ponente). We dropped the anchor and went on-shore to hike Vulcano for an epic picnic!
  • The hike up is quite an experience as you walk from rich green, flowery area through low bushes and grass to a desert-, mars-like environment.
    We reached the summit just in time for the sunset, where the big orange ball hit the sea between the islands of Filicudi and Alicudi and some yachts sailing around Aeolian Islands. While we put the eggs we’d carried up over the steamy cracks in the ground (sulfur!) the people down in the city turned their lights on and sweetened our marvelous view. (For explorers: Steam-boiled eggs need 8.5 minutes to be soft-boiled.) Besides eggs, there was cheese, kabanos, red and yellow pepper, bread, butter and some ham… Our best picnic ever!

Stromboli-Salina 07.08

  • Waking up before sunrise was tough. But we really wanted to see Sciara del Fuoco one more time, as long as it was still a bit dark. This time from the sea!
  • Unfortunately we had to find out that the view during the day is much less amazing than during the night. You can hardly see the Street of Fire, only the upper third (as the glow is simply gone). Still, it’s scary and impressive – but not after you’ve seen it in the dark!
  • After darkness had fallen, we witnessed our first volcanic eruption! Stromboli greeted us from a distance, and even though it was around 30nautical miles away, it was clearly visible. No wonder it was named the lighthouse of the Mediterranean!
  • With our bellies full and our eyes amazed, we hiked down to the city to complete the day with a beer. Unintendedly meeting gender stereotypes, the girls were the first ones back on Marty.nica. However, not being boring, they seized the opportunity and had a swim in their birthday suits. …feeling like giggly 13 year-olds again.
  • Falling asleep, we were all wondering how it is possible that this was only the first day of our trip!

Volcano-Lipari 04.08

  • As advised, we visited the mud baths on Vulcano island (only 2€) on an empty belly, straight after waking up. The ground there is partly so hot, that it is not recommendable to go there barefoot (yes, a lack of planning on our side!). We covered ourselves with the highly mineralized (and thus healthy – but nonetheless stinky!) sulfur-mud. Afterwards, we felt as if we had bought our skin one size too small.
  • We swam back to the yacht and – again – Matthias made us happy by preparing pancakes for the crew! Pancakes on the yacht?! Yep… God bless him 🙂
  • Slowly we sailed to Lipari (7NM), did some maneuvers on the sea: Fender overboard, goosewinging, yoga onboard, beer emptying… and entered the harbor.
  • The first surprise was the marina price: Marina Lunga: 140€/night after negotiations. Therefore we slept in Marina Pignatoro (further form the city): 70€/night + 2€/person for the shower.
  • The second surprise was that the owner of a nearby restaurant promised that his mother will feed us like pigs. We had a wonderful dinner including freshly caught fish, appetizers, salads, side dishes and local pink white wine (yes, really!). All that for 26€/person including the taxi to the city.
  • Lipari itself is quite a touristy city, but being the largest city of the Aeolians, offers a variety of nightlife attractions, bars and strolling opportunities. We stopped at three places to shake our booties to live music and have a drink. We had a Granite (something between ice-cream and crushed ice juice: very refreshing and tasty). Most houses have lovely small balconies filled with plants and flowers. The architecture of the city is adjusted to the terrain: tightly built and winding streets.

Lipari-Panarea 05.08

  • Sailing from Lipari town, we had very good side wind and met a galley on the way. We stopped on the islands north-eastern shore at the White Beach (which is actually grey – possibly from volcanic ashes). We were supposed to find slides in the Pumice rock, so sleek that we could slide down, directly into the sea (acc. to Lonely Planet!). There was something like a slide, but it was not sleek, not going into the water, and basically looking as if you’d tear your a** open if you would try to slide it.
  • We sailed to Panarea island with very good wind conditions, avoiding the posh city on purpose, as we had read that bars are expensive and fashion from Milan is the standard clothing. Sailing Aeolian islands attracts many!
  • Dattilo was our alternative goal. A rock nearby Panarea, where we snorkeled to see an invisible shipwreck at a depth of 3m (our chart said there’d be one… How should we have known? ;P ). To dry our tears we sipped some Gin-Tonic (with ice! – yes, our yacht had a freezer!) and sailed towards the setting sun, to the bay of Milazzese, south of Panarea.
  • We dropped anchor for the night and Matthias again prepared a delicious meal for us. We were far away from city lights, the moon shone bright for a while but set quite soon and allowed us to gaze at the beauty of the Milky Way. It was only one week until the peak of Perseids-activity, so we were lucky enough to see the comets scratching the sky for us quite a few times. Imagine lying on the cockpit, listening to Chris Barber and watching the Perseids. … *sigh* …

Panarea-Stromboli 06.08

  • Before leaving Panarea, we enjoyed French toasts (no, for a change not prepared by Matthias! Thank you D!), snorkeled to the shore for yoga and saw amazing underwater life on the way (octopus, squid, starfish, eel and other colorful creatures).
  • Powerful beam reach wind allowed us to reach Stromboli in good pace. It was nice to see Stromboli grow on the horizon. We had some strong gusts when we were close to the island and could feel the amount of ash in the air.
  • We arrived, dropped anchor and started to feel suspicious: Big black clouds covering the summit and so much ash in the air that our yacht looked like a Dalmatian.
  • We ate sandwiches, and prepared ourselves for hiking Stromboli vulcano. But after we got to the shore and found the tour guide’s office (you can’t walk higher than 400m on your own), we read on a sticker on their door that Stromboli’s activity was exceptionally high and therefore all trips are cancelled for the day. It would have been very nice of the company to inform us about that beforehand…
  • Nevertheless, we went around the island to see Sciara del Fuoco (Street of Fire). It was 1.5h hike along thriving vegetation and we ate lots of wild fruits on the way: Grapes, berries and capers. Well, maybe the grapes were not completely wild. :p
  • We passed by the Osservatorio (a restaurant we visited on our way down) and kept going higher not really knowing what to expect. We went serpentine after serpentine and suddenly – after taking a turn and a few steps – the first of us went “woooow”. The Sciara del Fuoco really deserves it’s name! Especially because of Stromboli being so active these days, the flow of lava went from the summit the whole way down to the water. On the top the outflow is more condensed and brighter, but along the way, it splits up and sends rocks rolling down, getting faster as they roll, sending small pieces into the air like a firework! The glow is impossible to describe and the lava flows so slow you start to doubt its power! But when you see the huge cloud of smoke it sends towards the sky where it hits the water, you are reminded of its might!
    Police guards the no-go area close to the shore, otherwise we would really have liked to find out how close you can go before the water gets frighteningly hot.
  • We spent a good 1,5 hrs at the viewpoint with jaw dropped faces. Every eruption made us want to wait for the next one. Like little kids, asking for ‘only one more’. You can just sit there and watch… and watch…. and watch… The cold finally made us want to get down. Although we had a good sweat on the way up, the wind makes temperature drop quite a bit as soon as night falls.
  • As stated above, we ate at the Osservatorio. We got a table with a wonderful view on Sciara del Fuoco and Stromboli`s summit, still seeing the eruptions (approx. every 15 min). The prices were moderate, food incredibly delicious and considering the fact that you could observe the lava eruptions, we decided that it was actually cheap to eat there (pasta 8-11€, pizza 6-9€, mussels 10€, beer 3.5€).

Stromboli-Salina 07.08

  • Waking up before sunrise was tough. But we really wanted to see Sciara del Fuoco one more time, as long as it was still a bit dark. This time from the sea!
  • Unfortunately we had to find out that the view during the day is much less amazing than during the night. You can hardly see the Street of Fire, only the upper third (as the glow is simply gone). Still, it’s scary and impressive – but not after you’ve seen it in the dark!
  • We had perfect wind conditions to sail to Salina. Only some technical problems with our gas handle caused a few troubles. Luckily, some of our crew members’ practical thinking and problem solving strategies were unbeatable (see image below! 😉 ).
  • Salina is the greenest of all islands, as it is the only island of the archipelago with freshwater springs. This gives even more fuel to the local vegetation and results in delicious local Malvasia wines and freshly green surroundings.
  • We were welcomed by Salina’s Marina workers with the words: ‘This is the most expensive Marina you have ever been to. Very nice! But it was true. :/ After negotiations we paid 165€ for a berth!!! So it was finally clear to us, that these islands are a destination for people who prefer anchoring! While sailing Aeolian Islands you won`t experience many marinas!
  • Salina is a charming little city. At least, we were marvelously entertained that night. We drank serial espresso, ate the largest Pizza we’d ever seen, performed the scene of Christ being born at a local ‘stage’ and danced on a pedestrian bridge to live music from a pub nearby. Our crew member Stefan even found some followers: young Italians copying his moves. They ended up looking like an aerobic class for teens.
    We danced, others danced, they laughed, we laughed…
    When the band ceased to play, we even got a standing ovation!
    A truly epic night!

Salina-Portorosa 08.08

  • We did the way back to Marty.nica’s home marina almost all on engine, as we had no wind. However, being a bit hangover and ending our trip, these conditions kind of fit the mood… And it gave us the chance to use the autopilot and climb the mast or nap in the shade.
  • For our lunch stop we stayed in a really beautiful bay. Our climber Nico scaled some rocks and jumped from quite a height into (once more) Azure waters, we snorkeled there and ate Freddy’s amazing pasta.
  • We arrived in Portorosa at sunset and ended the trip with a nice ‘last supper’ and going to bed early. It was a really intensive trip and none of us could believe that it had only been a week. The place, the weather conditions and Marty.nica was great! And greatest of all was our gorgeous crew!
    Looking back to this time almost two months later, it still hurts a bit that this truly wonderful week had to end. But that just means doing it again! ASAP! 😉

Alicudi and Filicudi

  • We did not manage to visit the 2 remaining islands from the archipelago. They are the smallest but still interesting.
  • On Alicudi there seems to be a nice grotto and some cliffs to explore. A nice beach to anchor and a small settlement to eat out.
  • On Filicudi, the furthest and smallest of islands, are no streets at all. All the houses are on the side of the mountain, people use donkeys to carry goods around and there are endless steps. It`s difficult to moor there as shallow water is very limited, therefore tourism is scarce. That makes it even more worth a visit!

In Short:

The seven Aeolian Islands are just north of Sicily and all of them were formed by tectonic activity, thus, they all are volcanoes (just not all of them active anymore). The remains of volcanic activity are on most of the islands in the form of hot springs, mud baths, sulfur exhaust or some underwater bubbles… One of them – Stromboli – is still active with a regular lava flow and even more regular eruptions. All the islands` beaches are made of black, fine, glittering sand. While walking around the cities, you mainly see old houses, narrow streets, colorful flowers, laundry being dried outside and generally lots of green – thanks to the very fertile volcanic soil. The food is delicious (as almost all over Italy), people are friendly and speak English with a charming Italian accent. While sailing Aeolian Islands winds are steady, the sea is warm, marine life is amazing and the sun shines happily ever after. 😉

Good to know:

  • Even in high season, not too many tourists.
  • Marinas only in 2 places (Lipari and Salina), very expensive in high season, but still poor facilities.
  • Good holding anchor spots (mainly in mud), no charges for anchoring.
  • Some buoy fields (reasonable only in unsettled weather, cause of good anchoring conditions).
  • Steady winds.
  • Azure blue waters, perfect temperature, amazing sea life.
  • Amazing vegetation and erupting volcanoes!
  • Laid-back pace of islanders.
  • Exceptionally tasty food.
  • …Did I mention inf…credible Stromboli?
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