I keep waiting for Ed Harris to introduce himself. For Madame Geneva to sail to the edge of the world and peel back the sky and realize that there really was a mind behind the madness, a production of the largest and grandest scale. The church bells are ringing in the nearby town of Taromina, the train rolls poetically down the rails along the coast, and yesterday’s brilliant lava flow has settled. Glowing red clouds have morphed into mystical vaporous fingers in an elegant dance with heaven and earth. This morning, I awoke at dawn to find snow on the mountain.
Timing is everything. Yesterday, we hiked through the lateral craters of Mt. Etna with friends (new and old) and learned of the mountain’s blessings. How her furious and hot rage could be reigned in by prayer and stop short of houses and villages. How she could carve up the landscape and expose glimpses into the core of earth with far reaching tunnels and earthshaking tremors. How her ash enriched the fruits of the land and tantalized the grapes into beautiful wines. At the peak over ten thousand feet above sea level, she flowed. The eruption started days ahead of our arrival. But from where we stood four thousand feet below, in the voluptuous folds, the only evidence of her power, so fierce as to create many lateral craters, we saw the rich black rock of prior years and heard the distant echo of her explosions.
Tired and worn from the long day of exploration, drenched by rain, warmed by sun, immersed in mist, and a bit exhilarated by the altitude, we dinghied back to our mooring at the mouth of the sea cave. The kids played legos while we foraged through cabinets and freezers to prepare a late-night dinner. Our plan was for an early night (read just after dinner) when Justin called excitedly from the cockpit. Red cloud! Explosion! We watched as the lava began to flow. Hours of trying to capture this moment, mindfully and digitally, were spent cuddled with lovies. We tried to focus lenses on a fine red line while rocking in a swaying anchorage. The lava grew long and we wondered where she flowed and whether our hands had grabbed those same rocks ahead of her descent.
I am Truman.
From Capo San Vito, we rounded the cape to the west (you are going the wrong way…how do you know where we are going?) and onward to Trapani (stress the p with the first syllable). Weather was supposed to reverse course from the onset of ‘summer’ on Tuesday and gusts upward of 40 kts were forecast. We figured on exploring the region from the protection of the marina tucked in behind centuries of fortification. If it is good enough for the Romans… The rain came hard and often. The wind blew as if desperate in escaping the depths of the sea. We found ourselves again tethered to our neighbors and forcibly confident that our bow lines would hold. Captains emerged and paced the docks, reporting of 50 kt gusts. We wandered the streets of Trapani in the rain, sometimes spared and often not. We ate well. We had our best meal (Sans children. They opted for a movie on the boat while we dined) at Caupona Taverna di Sicilia, away from the tourist traffic.
We doubled down on the weather, and headed up to Mount Erice 750 meters above sea level. We saw photos of the sunlit expansive seaside view but we had quite a different experience. The kids ran free through the misty gardens and climbed trees until out of sight. Cold and wet we wandered through the tight streets and alleys and into the eerily spiritual Monastery San Salvador and walked along walls and cliffs on the outskirts of the vast park extending from the Castle of Venus (or as Quinn says “Aphrodite, Roman form”). Justin purchased a lovely Italia sweatshirt to fend off the frozen finger chill. Who needs summer?
On Tuesday, we set off for Cefalu. We had promise of a westerly wind and a nice downwind sail but found choppy waves and a defeated sailing point. We dropped the main ahead of the cape and hoped for better conditions on the other side. A day of adverse circumstance had Justin on the second set of spreaders just off of Palermo. The lazy jacks of the main sail snapped and the difficulty of lowering that sail in any kind of weather pushed us to action. Temporary fix in place, we arrived in the gorgeous harbor of Cefalu right at sunset.
The beauty of this bay, nestled in craggy cave-filled rocks, is astounding. Clear calm blue water, albeit chilly (clearly as even the Germans wore clothes upon diving in), invited serenity. We spent the next day eating, shopping and exploring in town. We attempted to enter the gardens and paths of the temple of Diana perched high above the buildings but were informed that it was impermissible with our flip flops. Justin took the kids back to the boat while AKB and I searched for a plunger and provisions (success all around). He set the children loose in the cave (birds not happy and they were retrieved) and then loose on the dinghy. Delighted captain and crew all around.
We motored to Milazzo the next day as to get to a suitable launch for our transit of the Straights of Messina. We were lured into a small (and possibly Gansta) marina after our search of a weedless anchorage was unyielding. We were officially under protection. Our security had a Colt water gun and advised he’d be by the boat at 4 in the morning. We declined that extra service. We walked the promenade and had a farewell dinner with AKB, as her taxi was picking her up dockside at 5 in the morning.
We awoke excited and nervous. We rechecked the website indicating tides for the straights and their respective current speeds and set off. The approach was a couple of hours. We talked of whirlpools and shipwrecks. We radioed our intention and were given permission, whereupon Justin radioed back with finger off the button inquiring of sea monster sightings. Quinn stood at the ready, bow over shoulder and sword in hand. We would never be more ready.
Sails up and motor on, we hit the current (or rather the current hit us). The ferocity of the pull greatly increased our speed. At 1600 rpm (boat range is 2700-3000) and with little to no wind, we flew south at 11.5 kts. Whirlpools appeared off the bow and the beam. Water licking white on deep blue. A navy ship, once diminutive in the horizon, approached grandly at the stern. Ferries crosses our bow. One other pleasure boat sailed ahead of us. We watched as an ocean sunfish tossed madly in the current.
The screeching began just as Justin was furling in the jib. Down below, the protest at the engine room rang high and piercing. We put the engine to neutral. The alternator belt was loose. We adjusted sails and direction and shut off the engine. The current was moving at 6 kts and we were at 8.5 without noticeable wind. The captain worked quickly below and I steered through the whirlpools feeling the tug as the bow begged for delivery into the swirl. And that was a calm, well-timed transit.
I am Truman. I don’t know where you are, Ed Harris, but we may find you yet.
Much love and stay tuned.