Off to Sicily

Lightning, Sailing, Thunderstorm, Trapani, Waterspout

We said our good riddances to Sardinia in the morning and headed off for the 150 mile crossing to Sicily. I've had the forecasts from our usual three different weather models agreeing and it looked very good, 15 knots on the beam more or less all the way, with a bit less in the night. Swell was moderate and no thunderstorms forecast.

After about two hours of nice sailing in these conditions, it all turned into a big, fat lie. A massive front came through, the wind died, we reefed the sails and got a squall with 25-30 knots from the opposite direction. This lasted for more or less the rest of the passage. While it may have been 180° off from the now useless original forecast, at least it meant we could still sail, although in slightly less pleasant conditions.

The conditions deserved a critical look.

By evening, a large thunderstorm was flickering away on the horizon ahead. More followed in the night, until we were more or less surrounded. We could track them on the longest range setting of the Radar and thus avoid the worst part (sailing directly through one should be avoided if possible). Some emergency electronics were now in the microwave oven to protect them, should the boat get struck by lightning. At one point in the middle of the night, we were heading straight into one, and since we were in a lighter wind patch at that time, I decided to fire up the engine and motor south-southeast for a while to avoid this, only to find another big rainstorm on the radar that way. Somehow we did manage to pass between them all, although I didn't get much rest at all, part because we had to make a lot of course decisions and part because the swell was now up and it was quite rolly.

In the dark a big cruise ship crossed our path. There's something very odd about you struggling in your little boat through the dark with no weather forecast, finding no rest because of the nasty swell and are surrounded by dramatic lightning. And suddenly a huge floating palace that is lit up like a christmas tree passes you. You imagine what the passengers might be doing now, sleeping in their roll-stabilized beds, or perhaps having a drink at the bar, a swim in the pool or a three course meal in one of the onboard restaurants. Life at sea can be weird. We'd still not trade ours for their way of travel, except perhaps the stable beds.

Cloud with leg.

We welcomed the first light and the following sunrise, only to find several clouds with strange looking legs dangling from them a bit north of our position. The binoculars revealed what the legs were - waterspouts! Mini tornadoes that were touching the water, making a big swirl in it and looking like they were vacuuming up ocean into the clouds. On the upside, we got visited by dolphins on three separate occasions. Those guys seem to always show up and lend their support when the going gets tough.

Morning sun.

The morning brought better weather, although the swell still lingered and saw us rolling all the way to the Egadi islands off the west coast of Sicily. We had planned to anchor here in one of the coves on Levanzo, but upon arriving there, the bays were full with mooring buoys which were full with boats. Oops, should've known that, as it was mid August and peak holiday season in Italy. We thought perhaps we could anchor in on the edge of the mooring fields, like one catamaran had already done. Getting closer, it turned out there was a coastguard RIB in attendance, and we asked them if we could anchor there. They said to hang on, they were just issuing a fine to the catamaran anchored there and would deal with us in a moment. We took that as a no! Considering our options, and pretty tired from the sleepless night, we figured our best choice was to head onwards to Trapani, another hour and a half away.

Elvyra complained I wasn't posting enough nice pictures of her on the blog.

Elvyra surprised me with one of those wonderful breakfasts she can conjure up and that gave us the energy to push on and get into Trapani harbour. Our calls to the harbourmaster for permission to enter were left unanswered, but someone who must've seen our AIS signal called us up, trying to advertise their marina berth. He stopped answering once I said the magic word "anchor". We dropped said anchor in the northwest corner near another boat and fell into bed, which was finally holding still.

Museum of Illusions, Trapani.

Trapani had a bit of an unfortunate reputation for thefts from boats, so after a day of rest we decided to go on one of the privately managed quays, which wasn't cheap, but made it easy to explore the town without worrying about our dinghy being stolen or the boat cleared out whilst we were away. The berth also came with a bottle of Sicilian wine, which we promptly took a liking to.

Typical Sicilian scene.

We spent two days exploring the town, finding some supplies and discovering that the Sicilians were much friendlier than the previous tribe of islanders. Two nights of paid berthing were enough though, and we left Trapani to head back to the Egadi islands to relax at anchor.

Trying out the cloning machine.