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The boot of Italy is a tiring trip as there are few harbours that haven't been silted up, but the most difficult section was coming round into the Straits of Messina and running into a Force 7 wind, with very short seas. I hugged the coast to minimize the waves and eventually made it to Reggio Calabria.

But the reward was a week cruising round the Aeolian islands. These are a group of volcanic islands that time has usually forgotten. There are two active volcanoes, Vulcano and Stromboli. Vulcano smokes and has hot pools; Stromboli is currently erupting so the lava made a fantastic scene as I sailed away in the middle of the night. Lipari and Salina are green and peaceful and the museum on Lipari traces 5,000 years of occupation of the islands in a most fascinating way.

From Stromboli I made a long hop over to the Italian coast and visited Amalfi and Naples, which I had missed on the way down, before getting to the new Ostia marina in a suburb of Roma. Then another long hop across to Sardinia. I waited for a day for the wind to veer away but after having spent daylight heading for Corsica instead I had to give up and put the engine on overnight, before getting some more sailing in the morning.

The north-east corner of Sardinia is famed for sailing, having the Aga Khan's dream marina at Porto Cervo and a constant supply of wind rushing through the Bonifacio Strait, which makes La Maddelana a favourite haunt of sailing schools. There was plenty of very flukey wind around while I was there and I had some difficulty with the old problem of diesel bug, which led to some tricky anchoring in the islands. My anchoring technique without an engine needs practice. I had the same problem just outside Bonifacio, when the wind calmed down enough to get through the straits and finally managed to find a chandlers which had the treatment.

Bonifacio has a wonderful calanque, which some sources say was the home of the Laistrygonians (see the poem by Kavafy). That reference had puzzled me so I was glad to find out about the fierce people who ate Odysseus's crew!

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