Stromboli (Volcano)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Volcanos are fascinating and Stromboli has been in the news a lot lately.   Given how close I was going to be, I had to go and visit one of the most active volcanoes in the world currently.

Leaving Reggio di Calabria, there are a large number of activities that are required.   First is to get off the dock.  In the calm weather, this was easy.   Next was permission to enter the harbour, it was a slow Saturday morning so this was easy.  Finally permission to enter the Strait of Messina and the language barrier meant that didn’t go as planned, but I went through the Strait with little problem.

There was the one ferry that had to slow down while my slow boat crossed the entrance to the docks on the Calabria side, but with a current pushing me hard, I got across at 9 knots – very fast and only possible with a significant current.   Upon exiting the Strait, the Norwegian Pearl (and about 3 other large ships) were entering the Strait southbound.   I was running on the outside of the Pearl’s probable path for a LONG time, and finally decided to cut across the channel because that path was a collision course.   Of course as soon as I did so, the Pearl turned South for the entrance.  A brief conversation on the radios and and we aligned our navigation to avoid each other.  (We had a very nice vacation on the NCL Pearl a few years back, she looks even bigger when heading toward you at 17 knots.)

My original plan had me visiting Stromboli, anchoring out for the night and going ashore to see the volcano; the whole tourist experience.   When you start getting close, you realize that is not likely to happen.   It is a high mountain on a very small island with no apparent sign of roads.


As the island grew upon approach, it was clear that there was nowhere to find a dock.   There was one pier on the back side of the island, but it was likely reserved for ferries and there were some small craft moorings, but I wouldn’t trust them to hold Home Free.

Stromboli on Approach

So I dropped anchor in about 40 feet of water and was tossed around, way too close to shore for about 30 minutes before I came to the conclusion that this was untenable.   Of course turning lemons into lemonade, it occurred to me that taking pictures of the volcano (on the backside of the island) in the afternoon would provide better light than in the morning, so why not do that in the afternoon and move on to Lipari for the night.

My original anchorage location
The view ahead of my anchorage spot

The reality was a bit of a letdown, but it was still wonderful to see.    The coast guard has positioned a ship near the volcano to keep tourists away (two tourists have been killed walking on the mountain, and a number of boats have been in very dangerous situations).    They informed me immediately that I must remain two miles from the volcano and were running training exercises (essentially using me as a guinea pig to run alongside my boat with their RIB while holding their 2 mile limit).   It was a very friendly encounter actually.

Coast Guard running ‘exercises’ to keep me 2 miles off shore

While running alongside the volcano, it spewed a lot of steam, a minor eruption (but no molten lava, just spitting rocks and gas), and an opportunity to see what a live volcano looks like.  Having been to Hawaii, this was much smaller than Kilauea’s crater, but far more active.  Here is one photo.

Stromboli spewing gas

And one more image to see the cloud being distributed in the atmosphere.


From there it was off to Lipari, where I was trying to arrive before dark.   That didn’t work and so I took some time poking around looking for a good place to dock or anchor.   In the end, dropping an anchor was the wise choice (I was in an unknown harbour at night, with depths that went from 1000 feet to 15 feet in a span of less than 300m of distance.).  I picked what was likely the worst possible place to anchor, but it was in a marked anchorage, it was close to a ship that was lit up like a Christmas tree and it allowed me to settle in for the night.


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