Tuesday, 5 October 2010

West Coast Sicily

Church Towers in old town Mazara Museum, Mazara Cathedral, Mazara
Garabaldi Gate, old town Marsala
Town Hall, Marsala Marsala, old town residences
HI from Clare, West Coast Sicily Sunday 3rd October CHANGING SEASONS So it is now October and autumn has arrived. The water temperature has dropped from 28 degrees to 22 degrees and the air temperature is usually in the mid twenties. The days are still lovely and sunny with a cool breeze so it’s a great time of the year for sight seeing. However, not good for sailing as the weather is unpredictable. We can spend days at anchor waiting for the wind to die down. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE We stayed in the harbour of Castellammare Del Golfo for five nights waiting for the wind to change to the north east. It was fairly unpleasant as the sea swell caused the boat to roll day and night. We went ashore each day just for some relief. We got plenty of exercise and then sat around with the locals drinking far too much coffee. In my last newsletter I mentioned that we would watch the film Ocean’s 12 again and see if we could recognize the parts filmed in this town – we could not. WE KNOW BOATS We headed back to Trapani on Tuesday morning. Our hot water tank had sprung a leak so Andrew had it welded for the third time. It still leaks a little but we can live with it for the moment. I stayed on the boat taking advantage of the calm conditions to catch up on some domestics. COOL, CLEAR, WATER On Wednesday we sailed across to the Egadi Islands to enjoy some swimming in crystal clear 22 degree water. If we were at home in Jervis Bay we would say “22 degrees beautiful”. But we are Mediterranean squibs now so we have a quick dip and get out (cold) to lie in the sun. A FISHING TOWN The wind had changed to the north with a southerly forecast to follow in a few days. So Thursday we headed thirty miles south to Mazara del Vallo on the west coast of Sicily It is one of the most important Italian fishing ports and is well set up with a natural waterway extending well into the township. This waterway is crowded with fishing vessels, some in good repair, some very rusty, others are totally cluttered and look un-seaworthy. One smaller vessel had sunk some time ago and just left. Along the wharf there are large bundles of fishing nets and boat junk. The area stinks of fish, diesel, decaying matter and urine. SOME SIGHT SEEING AT LAST It seams that in places dating back to BC there is a new and an old part of town. So when we are approaching the harbour we have learnt to look for the old church towers so we know where to go (Photo 1). The old town in Mazara del Vallo is beautiful with grand old buildings and churches (Photos 2 & 3). The town square would have once been crowded but nowadays it is almost a ghost town with just a few tourists wondering around. AND THE SIGHTS YOU SEE However, step outside the gates of the old town and it is bedlam. We bought an ice cream and sat at a roundabout to watch the traffic driving past Italian style. It is hard to spot a car without dents. The boom gates at a rail crossing came down. Not just one gate on each side of the track (like we have at home) but two gates to block the entire width of the road. However, that didn’t stop the people from ducking under or through the barriers to cross the road. People of all ages, some chatting in groups, some talking on mobiles, but the best one was a mother who pushed her small child onto the tracks telling him to run and then she followed - we were astounded. SWEET MARSALA By Saturday the wind had changed to the south, so we headed ten miles north to the town of Marsala. The town is especially known for its fortified wine which I’m sure most of us have tasted at some point. I can remember my first taste sneaking some from the decanter at home; fairly sweet from memory. I guess had I got caught, it wouldn’t be a sweet memory. Marsala is a huge town with lots of high rise accommodation and industrial development. It looks fairly unattractive and we almost turned away. It is a twenty minute walk from the marina to the old town. The road along the foreshore is hot, dusty and deserted so we went one street back to get some shade from the buildings. This street is vastly different with fashionable shops, outdoor restaurants and plenty of traffic. It is in total contrast and yet only fifty metres apart. The old walled town has four large gates (Photo 4) and the streets within are made of marble. The buildings and churches date back to 11th century but since then have been restored or rebuilt on Norman foundations (Photos 5 & 6). We were there during siesta time so most of the shops were closed. We walked up the winding back streets and the shop fronts are very old with crumbling brickwork and doors like horse stables. But inside the buildings are totally refurbished to 21st century standard; totally unexpected. BACK TO THE ISLANDS Sunday we came across to the Egardi Islands to sit out the southerly wind. We anchored in a well protected bay along with twenty other boats. Most of them were locals enjoying the weekend so they left in the late afternoon. Today we have the bay to ourselves. It is a fabulous spot with aqua coloured water, sandy bottom; we can see our anchour in six meters of water. The wind is blowing 25 knots outside and there are plenty of white caps out there. But we sit here in calm conditions enjoying the day. We will be here for a few days waiting for the next northerly to kick in. Andrew is busy cleaning the dinghy and removing rust spots off the boat. I am supposed to be polishing the deck, so I better get to it. SO WHAT NEXT We have decided not to see Malta this year as the wind is not favourable to then go on to Tunisia. We will do Malta at the beginning of next season. We will go to Tunisia on the next northerly. We will be there around the middle of the month and this will give us some time to do some exploring. Love Candy xx