FERRYING IN '15, 24th June, Laurana
Wednesday 24th June 2015
On board LAURANA my alarm clock woke me from a deep sleep as planned, ready for our call at Stromboli. It was barely light outside, and the lack of hot or even warm water in the bathroom was an unwelcome shock. It's at times like this that some of us remember the old childhood idea of 'a lick and a promise', so a thin towel and cold water had to suffice. The cabin had been very cold in the night, with the air-conditioning roaring noisily through the ventilator, so I had been extremely glad of the thick Adriatica red blanket on my bed, but I now realised that it was probably designed to dull the smell of diesel in the cabins and corridor. I was glad to get out on deck and see where we were.
It was interesting and rather awe-inspiring to realise we were following a route of active Italian volcanoes, from Vesuvius looming over Naples, to the islands of Stromboli and Vulcano, and then further south to Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily. We could see wisps of lava cloud issuing from one of the craters on the top of Stromboli and suddenly all the imagined pictures became reality in front of us.
Although it was almost 6 a.m. and barely light we still had a couple of miles to go before reaching the little town and jetty. I hadn't realised that the island was inhabited but in fact many people were getting ready to leave LAURANA and as we came closer and manoeuvred to get the stern ramp on the jetty, we could see low level buildings on the flatter land near the jetty and about twenty vehicles lined up ready to board the ship. The beaches were black of course with the lava deposits, but there was green vegetation just above them in this area.
The ramp went down, about sixty people disembarked with their pull-along cases and occasional dog, and were soon to be seen making their way along the jetty and then the road. Some people were met by little open-top vehicles which soon disappeared with passengers and luggage.
The aged local black dog on the jetty barked his last message, the police watched the ramp go up, and within 15 minutes we were again on our way, sailing in the Tyrrhenian Sea towards Ginostra, Panarea and S.M. Salina.
I went back to bed and the Adriatica blankets and slept for another hour and missed the next ports of call, but back on deck the coffee and croissants in the bar were good and so was the subsequent restful time on deck enjoying the sea and sunshine. Even some time after leaving Stromboli we could see the little cloud of lava rising high into the sky from her summit.
Next we headed to Rinella to disembark and embark more passengers, again within about 15 minutes, and then we were off to Lipari.
Lipari is the largest and most populated of the Aeolian islands and seems to be a bigger and more popular destination, as the Pilot came on board and guided us past two cruise ships: STAR BREEZE and SEA DREAM II already in the bay.
Passengers surged off here and I think a few embarked, but LAURANA was beginning to feel fairly quiet and empty now, as we set off for Vulcano - late again. I had found a timetable by this time and it showed the sailings north and south to these volcanic islands during the months June to September.
Vulcano is another seemingly popular volcanic island, judging by the little local Siremar fast ferries we saw in the harbour. Again, our passengers disembarked and we began to feel we were on a ghost ship for a moment, especially as the bar stopped serving coffee or cool drinks once we left at 11.45 a.m. We were over an hour late by this time, but it was lovely out on deck in the sunless heat as we sailed towards our final destination of Milazzo, on the north coast of the island of Sicily.
About 1.30 we arrived in Milazzo, about an hour and a half later than scheduled, but we were soon standing on the quayside beside LAURANA. She had been an interesting ship and we felt so glad we had travelled on her; her itinerary was unforgettable and it had been an amazing journey. I don't think I smelt the sulphur but I could certainly see the lava flows and some smoking craters as we wended our way to call at these volcanic islands, on a very interesting ship.
We had time now to find a local restaurant before catching an hourly Giuntabus to take us along the autostrada to Messina, our port of embarkation for our next sailings across the Straits of Messina. We love the local delicacy of arancini - crispy deep-fried balls of cheese and rice - so these were the starter before Italian pizza and cool drinks. We could look out at the water and notice that LAURANA had moved berths, which gave us another chance for photos after lunch.
Ships seen: Laurana, Attilio Ievoli JR, Sea Dream II, Star Breeze, Mirella Morace, Eschilo, Ariston (coaster of Marmaris), Antioco
To be continued...