Sicil, Insects and an Obscene Statue

Trip Start May 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2014

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Villasimius (Sardinia)
On Friday 11th May we left Cagliari for Villasimius before heading off on the 160 mile passage to Marsala on Sicily. As we crossed Cagliari harbour we were given a send off by a low flying flight of pink flamingos - delightful.
Then, as we exited the harbour with a following wind, we passed the lagoon from which the flamingos came and were given a further send off by millions of bloody flies, mosquitoes, and wee beetly things, all flying on the following wind and settling on the boat. Imagine our delight at having to chase around for the rest of the morning killing the little bastards and then spraying the interior of the boat with insecticide. I now  know  why the flamingos were leaving - to escape the bugs!
We entered Villasimius to find it was a very pleasant, fairly new marina, half empty with no logical reason for existence, in a beautiful setting overlooked by mountains. We had also been told that it was very expensive and that there were no shops etc. We were therefore surprised  to find that it was cheap(€16.80), had a supermarket, chandlery, restaurant, boatyard and fuel station.
When we arrived it was quite windy, we were met by a marinero in a dinghy who escorted us in, showed us our berth and then helped us moor up - very impressive.
A Brit couple came over and, while we were chatting, a French boat came in and was treated to a similar performance by the marinero. I commented that, being French, they would be superb boat handlers and wouldn't need  the services of a marinero. Naturally, they made a complete balls of it and it took four of us plus the marinero and his boat to extract them from their predicament - so much for national stereotypes!!
We had a pleasant, sunny afternoon exploring the marina and the adjoining shallow lagoon (water like a tepid bath - and no insects).
Sardinia to Sicily, dolphins, wasps and a leaping Manta Ray.
At 8.20 on Saturday morning we headed East for Sicily. A wind picked up just outside the harbour and gave us a delightful day's sailing thereafter. Later in the morning Gina, who was on the helm, spotted something leaping from the water (oh no not more bloody dolphins!). I looked and saw what looked like a large black and white kite leap from the water. It was a Manta ray. I had seen these when diving in the tropics but never imagined that they were in the Med or that they were particularly acrobatic. It looked most unseemly and unlikely, a bit like seeing a particularly reclusive maiden aunt pogo sticking down the high street..
As the journey continued we were invaded by a regular stream of wasp-like creatures. They started when we were 40 miles offshore and didn't stop for the next 40 miles. You can imagine the joy of trying to avoid these wee sods and how secure we felt when it got dark and we could no longer see them. The decks of the boat looked like the French flagship after Trafalgar, blood, guts and wee corpses everywhere.
As the sun went down so the wind died and we were again reliant on the iron topsail chugging away in an oddly self satisfied manner. It was a clear night with an incredible sky. We were visited by dolphins throughout the night. They could be detected by the phosphorescent wakes that they left in the water, looking to all intents like torpedo trails.
The following morning the boat was soaked in dew, but the rising sun soon got rid of this as we sailed past the Egadi Islands off the coast of Sicily. Naturally this immediately invoked yet another sodding insect invasion. This time the evil wee culprits were flies.
We arrived in Marsala to be met by a helpful marinero and an immediate disappearance of all insect life. Even the flies in the cabin had disappeared. Clearly the homeland of the Mafia is no place for bugs! We immediately set about cleaning the boat and getting rid of the insect corpses. As they washed out through the cockpit drains they were met by a shoal of small fish who thought it was Christmas. Sicilian fishes know how to deal with dead bodies!
On arrival we thought that the harbour area looked a tad run down and probably hadn't seen much re-decoration since the Royal Navy bombed it in the 1940s. We paid up (bloody expensive - €31 per night) and took a walk into town through some very dodgy looking docklands and then equally dodgy housing estates where the shops appeared to have shutters made out of old Sherman tanks. We `were becoming increasingly dubious about staying here by the time we arrived at the town centre.
However, it is an absolute delight, a little run down but with sunny piazzas, narrow streets, some lovely buildings and is a very relaxed place to be.
Since Tuesday we have been kind of stuck here waiting for the strong winds to abate. However we have increasingly grown to enjoy the place and have discovered some little gems of places to visit including; a museum with the remains of a Phoenician war ship; An old church with an underground grotto and well/waterfeature(we were shown this by an incredible group of young trainee tourist guides); a park with old Greek and/or Roman columns just kind of lying around; a remarkable 1930's cinema designed in the then fascist chic Italian modernist style; and last, but not least, a statue/fountain of a nude woman and a donkey. The donkey is carrying wine Marsala barrels which are spurting wine, while he is braying/laughing and is kicking his hind legs in the air. The nude is drinking while sat on a strategically placed bunch of grapes and has a jet of the stuff coming from her left tit. The overall effect is hilarious and mildly obscene - amazing.
Sicily has some of the highest unemployment in Europe (30%). There are many beggars and numbers of men clearly hanging around with nothing to do. The young tourist guides that we met were part of a class of around 12 who were being trained (very effectively) in a number of skills including guiding foreigners. One of them acted as our guide while 4 of his colleagues came with us, encouraging him and giving him prompts when couldn't remember an English word. Their team spirit really was of a very high order and their teacher, who appeared to be in the background , really should be congratulated.
It is now Thursday morning and we are still sitting here in Marsala with force 6 to 7 winds howling around us. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to progress further down the coast to Sciacca.
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