I have never been able to explain what is that makes you reborn when you are in the middle of the sea! In the sea, time is nonexistent. The only distinct point is the lines of the horizons. Is it probably the getaway from the time or the journey which anyway is itself a small renaissance?
Wednesday, August 4: Milazzo does not seem to be an attraction even for the Italians, but gathers a lot of people, as it is the nearest port to the Aeolian Islands. Without having to cover many miles in a calm sea, we started at 09:00 in the morning. We had to cover 110 miles till Palermo, where we were expected at 16:00. We decided to make a stop in Cefalu at 72 nm. It is a small beautiful city, built on the seaside, in front of a massive rock that strongly reminds us of Monemvasias’ rock. Around 14:00 we started to sail to Capo Zafferano, the eastern cape of the large bay that hosts Palermo. This was our meeting point with the group of inflatable boats of the Sicilian Capital, named as Club Tecnomare. Several journalists were on board too.
In a very warm atmosphere and after exchanging the first words with our friends there, we raised the Olympic flag and the Greek flag and forming a very beautiful procession, we began to enter the bay of Palermo. In a few minutes we were in the port, with an accompanying rib in front to show us the route and the rest Italian ribs following apart. After two rounds into the harbor with the Olympic flag flying majestically, we moved to Molo Sammuzzo, where a lot of people and members of the Greek community of Palermo "Trinakria” were expecting us.
Palermo (the name comes from the Greek word "Panormos") is a beautiful town with a population of over 1,000,000 and with many attractions. It is also an important commercial port as it is positioned in the heart of the Mediterranean. With beautiful squares and buildings, many palaces and museums and the old city on the southern tip, it is an attractive city. We didn’t however manage to turn around the streets as we would wish, because of our planned meetings that were so many. So, without wasting any time, we took the road to the Greek Consulate, where we were welcomed by the sweetest Consul, Ms. Renata Lavagnini, together with the members of the Greek community.
Thursday, August 5
Villa Niscemi: At 10:00 we visited the large park that surrounds the villa Niscemi. A representative building belonging to aristocratic families of the 17th century, with many Baroque elements, built at the foothills of Pellegrino. The villa itself has remained unchanged, with two floors, many rooms and one of the largest libraries of Italy. Nowadays, it has been renovated and is used by the Mayor of Palermo for welcoming special guests. We were welcomed by the Minister of Sports, Mr. Stefano Santoro. The Consul Mrs. P. Lavagnini, the Vice President of the Greek community Ms E. Ortolani, Mr. P. Fagone President of the Olympic Committee and many journalists were presents too.
"We are very happy with your visit and the Consul is here to support this meeting. I find this event very important and symbolic too. As in ancient Greece, where before the Olympic Games messengers were sent throughout the Mediterranean to herald their inception, the same tradition nowadays in 2004 is repeated. The Olympic Games are very important not only as a sporting event. It is of great importance for Sicily and for all Mediterranean people, since they have a common history and tradition, which is going to play a very important role in the future. They present a link of all Mediterranean people who can balance in Europe, which grew longer, without losing their dentity, a critical point of globalization. I am very proud to welcome you and your presence here is the hallmark of twinning between Greece and Sicily. Please, apart from your own very important message, transfer our message to Gibraltar...", said Mr. Santoro. The rising of the Greek flag next to the Italian was followed, which, as explained by Ms. Consul, it happened for the first time. For the first time the flag of another State raised aside the Italian one.
With great joy and obvious enthusiasm, the Sports Minister, Mr. S. Santoro, accepted the Olympic flag. This was followed by a small reception in the great hall of the palace, where we invited Mr. Santoro at the Olympic Games in Athens.
Friday, August 6
Fulfilled with strong emotions we left behind Palermo, which offered us unforgettable moments. At 07:15, after a few sleeping hours, but feeling very powerful and in very good mood, we started our next leg. The weather forecast was about 5 and locally 6 bf northwest winds. The miles that we had to cover up to Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, were 250 and our course to 286 degrees. A long trip against the weather was ahead.
It was 09:00 o'clock in the morning. Our compass could difficulty keep its course and we had covered just a few miles. In front of us the second major passage of our journey extended that seemed even longer since our bow was facing a 5bf upwind. But this day was very important and critical in terms of our predetermined arrival at Hercules Pillars. So we should definitely avoid losing this day anyway. With our teeth tightened we continued our trip covering the miles with difficulty.
11:00 o'clock: Our position was almost N38o38' Ε12o30'. The 5bf upwind became very strong. The waves were coming violent on our port bow therefore slowing down our speed at 13 to 15 knots. Our arrival at Cagliari during afternoon remained only as a hope…
17:15, the waypoint was N38ο57' E10ο59'. We were already exhausted when the weather got calmer and allowed us to increase speed. It was getting dark when far away on the horizon we could see the coast of Sardinia. Keeping our speed close to 25 knots we reached quickly Capo Carbonara, the southeast cape of Sardinia.
It was completely dark. We made a stop to have some rest and, with eyes wide open, we entered carefully in the large and deep bay of Cagliari. It was 02:00 after midnight, when we slipped into a fishing shelter. Totally exhausted with our eyelids remaining more closed than open we prepared our sleeping bags very quickly.
Saturday, August 7
We hardly woke up at 08:00 am. It was rather the harder part of our trip that we had covered till now. It was not a matter of how many miles we had covered in one day –since we had sailed longer distances before - but how difficult it was with a strong 5bf head wind through all day long.
For the next two days the weather broadcast reported southeast 5bf force wind that during afternoon would turn to northwest with the same intensity. Things were more complicated because we had in front us the harder passage of the Mediterranean: The passage of the infamous Gulf of Lions...
After fueling, we started for S. Pietro, southwest of Sardinia. We postpone the preparation for the great passage in the evening, to enjoy for the moment the 82 nm coastal cruising. Sailing around the southwest coast of the island, we entered the harbor where Carloforte is, the only town on the island, with 6,500 inhabitants. It is a small and beautiful town, with nice buildings from the 18th century to face the sea and narrow alleys with wide stairs to descend to the port. We sat in Piazza Emanuele, the central part of the town, and after a strong espresso we rammed through the narrow streets, where there are many shops, to be supplied with stuff for the next few days.
Sunday, August 8
Italy at 04:00pm. I had written down this day with capital letters in my diary. It seems to be the most difficult passage of the Mediterranean; a passage of 255 nautical miles. The challenge was great, the same as our agony. We packed the things as best as possible, while we completely filled the front water tank.
With half-closed eyes we tried to increase our visual field as our bows penetrated the darkness. Tucked slowly in an infamous passage, we were feeling that the sea was not as we hoped. As far as we were sailing in the open sea, the sirocco wind increased. When we were not protected from the southern Sardinia, a strong 5bf south eastern wind with big waves just appeared and it was still early in the morning. It was just down. Now the wind was on port quarter so we decided to empty the front water tank. We hoped to continue up to the half of the distance, as we calculated. With eyes wide open we were continually observing the sea and the cloudy sky, marking with great attention even the smallest details. Perhaps, never elsewhere did the sea seem so mysterious to me.
Time 12:15: Our position was N 39Ο 46 'Ε 05Ο 20' and keeping a constant speed we were already crossing the last 47 miles. The low hills of Majorca appeared and we were passing now the massive waves with more confidence while the sky was becoming clearer, giving the sea its familiar dark blue color. Bypassing the cape S'espero we entered the famous port of Mahon, on the southeastern tip of the island. It is a long channel length of 3.5 nautical miles. It was 16:00 o'clock in the afternoon when we anchored in one of the many coves of the "channel" to rest. Finally we arrived much earlier than we had estimated.
While the trip schedule was dictating us to spend the night in Mahon, our thoughts were pushing us to continue our trip to Majorca to gain some miles more. We had already covered 255 miles, but it was not yet enough for us! In the afternoon, we said farewell «Thanelli", which would wait for us in the Balearic Islands up to our return. The bow headed for the eastern Majorca, which meant 50 additional miles trip.
Just alone for now on, a rib with a crew of two persons, without the valuable accompaniment of "Thanelli" we started to cover the last miles for this day. We planned to arrive before nightfall. Facing a unique spectacle in a sea that seemed to vibrate from the huge silent waves coming from Africa, we "flew" over in 32kn speed. So, just before the sunset, we slipped on the first downwind bay after Capo del Pinar, the southeast cape of Majorca.