Evolve or die” is the title of a book that stayed on my desk for months at work… I picked it up from the coffee room because I found its title amusing. I never got the time (or will) to read it… so this post is dedicated to this missed opportunity 🙂

As you might know, we’re sailing; so we depend on the wind. Too much wind or not enough wind is almost equally annoying – the main difference is that too much wind can be a danger. So, we get to check the weather forecasts once or twice a day. We need to deal with the wind to get where we want, in a safe and enjoyable manner.

Unfortunately, in the Med the weather is rather unpredictable. On top of that, the weather is kind of binary: not a single breeze, or strong winds. We have always been sailing in the Med and we learnt to deal with it. For sailors coming from the great oceans, it’s a radical change from the weather conditions they faced in their seas.

Usually, we get the weather forecasts (from NOAA, using the great zyGrib software to fetch and display the data) for the next 8 days, we only trust the forecasts for the next 2 or 3 days. We think of the forecasts for the next 5 to 6 days as “indicative”. This means that when we see something bad coming, we can take a decision 5 days ahead of it and we have 2/3 days to get to a execute the plan – which is short considering the slow speed of a sail boat.

We also like to get to places where we can drop the anchor ; and this is also largely dependent on the wind. We don’t have a precise plan for our trip and it would be presumptuous (and dangerous) to have a detailed road map for the coming months. We are constantly adapting in order to keep the ride enjoyable for everyone.

In our last post, we explained how we got to Ustica following the wind. Then we went to Palermo because the wind was still pushing us and we reached the Aeolians islands. In those volcanic islands (rocks and deep waters, not the safe, shallow, sand or mud bottoms), we had to pay extra attention to the winds. We got super lucky and won 8 fantastic days without wind to explore and the archipelago.

We loved Lipari island (Lipari main town and its museum, Porticello with its white pumice cliffs), we enjoyed Panarea (where we briefly met Tranquilo‘s crew) and we were amazed to see the Stromboli in action at night.

Because of the weather forecasts, we changed our plan to turn around Sicily and get to Malta – at least for now. A gale was announced from Corsica to Malta. We did not feel like sailing in new places with strong winds, not knowing were we could anchor safely. After some days, we took the decision to go north, “back” to Napoli. We discovered nice places like Faracchio (close to Palinaro) and Positano.

Positano at night, from the mooring buoy.
Positano at night, from the mooring buoy.

We wanted to stop for two nights in Napoli to visit the city, but there was a combination of celebrations and strong winds that made all marinas completely full. Once again we adapted our plans and headed north again to Gaeta which was both protected from the wind and a good anchorage spot (shallow water, sandy bottoms), where we spent two nights waiting for the wind to calm down.

Reckless driver

We also had to adapt to the habits of the Italians at sea. On motor boats, they ride like… Italian drivers 🙂 We learnt to be fearful of them all, even the shuttles between Napoli and Capri are sailing recklessly. On sail boats, they also like to motor (we like to race with them under sails). The most striking difference we noticed is that they like to go out for the day, throw their anchor in the strangest places (where a dinghy would hardly fit, right on our anchor, etc.) and then, when the place is fully packed, the motor boats arrive and do their gymkhana in the middle. The place gets a lot of animation during the afternoon, then suddenly they all disappear to the closest marina around 6pm to 7pm – and we can feel safe for the night. We adapted again to these new habits, and we discovered that you can get into any marina around 11am: all boats are all out! Unless the wind is blowing, that is. All in all, we find the italian coast to be beautiful and Italian really friendly and helpful; we feel lucky to be sailing here.

We also tried to get used to negotiating the prices (marina or buoys)… which is difficult for us. Everyone told us that this is the way to do it here, but we’re kind of novice in that area. In fact, we don’t negotiate… but we usually get a ‘special discount’ (the discount they offer to everyone to avoid negotiations). We’re working on this 🙂

Finally, the whole family it getting used to its new life style. Kids are helping us more with meals and the daily tasks and are still excited with their Yamalu restaurant – so far so good!

PS: we are now officially on YouTube. It’s not our video but, hey, we consider it a kind of success when you made it into someone else’s video. Check it out on Sailing Nikau‘s channel (vlog 4)!

6 thoughts on “Evolve or die

    1. Hello, Nice to virtual meet you! We are still at Lapari waiting to have the good winds (tomorrow ??) to go to Trapani. It is quite windy where you are now. It would be nice if we can meet, I will let you know when are we leaving and what would be our way. Nice blog too!

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      1. Yes, that would be nice 🙂 we were looking at the weather thinking we should also leave tomorrow, but then we would try to visit the islands. It’s supposed to be no or little wind for a week after tomorrow. Do you have any good tips except for what is in the blog? We might go west to Trapani again, but we’re not sure yet. It’s very windy now! Are you in a marina or anchored? The holding outside the Cefalu’ marina has proven to be very good 🙂

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    2. Hi there, I’m replying here to your next comment.
      For tips about the Aeolians: we found it very difficult to anchor safely in most islands. We have spent quite some days between Porticello and Copo Rosso on Lipari because the pumice sands provide shallow (and clear) waters and a rather good hold. It is also a good shelter from winds from the west like those days. We saw many boats drifting away on their anchor, but with enough chain it is OK.
      As written in the blog, we really enjoyed the town of Lipari. As usual, for long visits we like to get to a marina. From Pignataro marina, we could get to Lipari town by bus (it is at walking distance, but the bus is safer :-).
      On Panarea, we stayed in Baia Milazzese – expect 10 to 15 m bottoms (there is a restaurant on the beach, and electric taxis to get to town – we have not tried any).
      On Stromboli, we stayed in Punta de la Lena, just down San Vincenzo (black sands bottoms, 8 to 15 m if I recall correctly). We left the dinghy on the beach for some food shopping and a restaurant.
      Those 3 anchoring places are busy during the day, but it’s quite empty at night – everyone leaves around 7pm.
      We also dropped the anchor in Punta Brigantino in Salina but a big motor yacht complained that we were in there swing circle and we had to leave…
      And last but not least, we sailed the north-west coast of Stromboli at night to see to red light of the volcanic material being ejected every 15 minutes or so. We had sailed in the same coast during the day and we could hardly tell something that beautiful was happening. So, Stromboli by night: we recommend 🙂

      We’re headed to Trapani and then Malta (if weather permits…), we’ll try to make the most of the light winds for the coming days! We hope to have enough wind to sail up the remaining swell tomorrow 🙂

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