Our Sailing Trip to the Eolian Islands Begins

Following my last day in Taormina and my arrival last night in Milazzo I caught a good rest to get up early today to repack my suitcase and remove a number of items that I was not going to need on my sailing trip through the Eolian Islands. This will be my first sailing trip ever, and it will be combined with Italian language studies, offered by a Milazzo-based language school called Laboratorio Linguistico. A very unique concept, although now I was a little nervous, wondering I would get seasick, or whether I was going to have decent ship mates. Various thoughts of uncertainty were swirling through my head.

I had already met my cabin mate Claudia, a cool Lufthansa flight attendant from Germany. We had already shared a room overnight at the student apartment that is located directly above the Laboratorio Linguistico language school. In the living room of the school, prior to our departure on the sailing trip, I met another one of our ship mates: Lawrence (or, as he called himself, “Lorenzo”), a Catholic priest from the United States in his mid-fifties, whose parental grandparents had emigrated in 1910 from the island of Salina in Sicily to the United States. Lorenzo was going to join us on the sailing trip and was going to stay two more weeks on the island of his grandparents to study Italian.

View from my apartment over downtown Milazzo, in the background: the Mediterranean

So I had met two of my sailing trip colleagues already, and they were pleasant, gregarious people. At 9:30 am we headed downstairs to our meeting point where we would meet our skipper, Francesco Di Santi, who also co-owns the Laboratorio Linguistico language school and teaches Italian. Sure enough, our captain was already there with his station wagon and we packed all our belongings in the car. Yumiko, a language student from Japan, had just finished her stay at Laboratorio Linguistico and needed to get to the train station to take a train to the Palermo airport back to Japan. We packed her and her luggage into the car as well.

Stuffed to the gills the four of us drove Yumiko to the train station and then continued on to a small town outside of Milazzo called Portorosa, location of the sailboat harbour. We drove into the marina, parked our vehicle and started unloading our luggage and carrying it to the boat. In the midst of a scenic channel reminiscent of the canals of Fort Lauderdale, we saw our boat: the Solitaire II, a 14 metre long sailboat with 4 cabins that would be our home for the next seven days.

Loading our car before the sailing trip

Claudia and I were going to share a cabin at the front of the boat, and when we looked in there, it was a long, narrow space which featured a single bed that could be split into two bunk beds with one higher than the other. We both unpacked our suitcases and stashed our belongings away and then stowed our large suitcases in the rope storage compartment at the front of the boat. Space is definitely an issue on a sailboat.

The same goes for the bathroom. This four-cabin sailboat had two bathrooms and Francesco proceeded to instruct us how to use them. The faucet above the wash basin could actually be pulled out and turned into a hand-held shower faucet while the toilet actually required some intense hand pumping action in order to draw in sea water to flush out our unmentionables. Needless to say, no toilet paper was to go into the bowl, the paper would need to go into a plastic bag stored under the wash basin. The hygienic arrangements on a sailboat are not for the unsqueamish, and it’ll definitely take a bit to get used to these facilities.

The Solitaire II – our abode for the next 7 days

Other than that the Solitaire II was a very comfortable boat with a kitchen / living room area right when you climb inside the boat, a sitting area for about 8 people at the back of the boat, and the possibility to plunk yourself down at the front of the vessel.

With our luggage stowed we were ready to proceed with our preparations for the sailing trip: food shopping. We hopped into the car again and drove to a supermarket in the local village where we picked up all sorts of stuff: vegetables, fruits, salad ingredients, basic staples such as milk, eggs, bread, butter, cold cuts, even sweets, and of course drinks which included wine, water, soft drinks and juices. 350 Euros later we loaded the car and drove to the train station where we picked up another passenger for our boat trip: Herbert, a TV travel journalist from Germany who was going to use this trip as a scouting opportunity for shooting a segment of his television program next year.

The onboard washroom / shower facilities

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