Thursday, August 8, 2013

Toe to Toe to Toe with Scilla and Charybdis: Transiting the Straits of Messina

2013 08 07
Vulcano, Aeolian Islands, Italy

All that Remains of Fierce Charybdis -
A Smallish Standing Wave
From The Odyssey, Volume 12 describing the transit of Messina Straits:

Next came Charybdis,.
who swallows the sea in a whirlpool
then spits it up again.
Avoiding this we skirted the cliff 
whereScylla exacts her toll
Each of her six slavering maws

grabbed a sailor and wolfed him down

Charybdis and Scylla guarded the Northern Extent of the passage through the Straits of Messina, a mile wide stretch of water separating Sicily from Italy and thus defining Sicily as an Island apart.

Charybdis was a giant whirlpool on the Eastern gate that sucked your boat down to the bottom and spit it back out again.  Avoiding the whirlpool a sailor had to face Scylla, a six headed monster of rock that grabbed the hapless vessel and ate it whole, spitting out only splinters.

Fortunately for all an earthquake has rearranged the topography of the bottom of the Straits and removed the threat of both whirlpool and rock.  Not at all disappointingly our passage of the Straits of Messina was straightforward.

Ignoring the calculations based on high tide at Gibraltar we approached the straits five hours early and had a wonderful lift from current for the entire passage.  Only the final two miles, the home of Scylla and Charybdis, saw adverse current, at one point reducing our forward speed to two knots.  Wishing to steer a course of 020 magnetic I was forced to point the boat to 070 to make the proper way.  

Had I just pointed my boat at the spot I wanted to go then I too would have been introduced to Scylla and likely she would have enjoyed us as an afternoon snack.

In the result transiting the Straits was a non event although it was fun to be apprehensive about doing it.  All in all the real danger in the Messina Straits are the numerous ferries running across the short gap without regard to small boat traffic.  

Entering Vulcano Anchorage we Were Passed By This
Impudent but Interesting Hydrofoil
If yopu click on the photo it should enlarge
Exiting the Straits we made the thirty odd miles to Vulcano, one of the Aeolian islands.
Another famous island in this group is Stromboli.  

Our Anchorage at Vulcano
Vulcano is home to an active volcano and Stromboli, twenty miles off, is very active, emitting fumes and spitting rocks almost continuously.  The air quality here is very bad but the terrain is very cool.  

Stromboli (right not left) Distant in the Far Mist

More Vulcano Anchorage and One Dead Volcano -
Note the emissions on the right hand side indicating
Somewhere back there hides the real thing
Today we explore.

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