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 Justine's Journal

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Fine food, fine wine and fine paddling in Sicily!
Sunday, October 11, 2009

I feel like I've just come back from a 10 day holiday, although Barry and I were officially "working" at the first international seakayaking symposium in Sicily, Italy.
The event was organised by Francesco Petralia who takes people seakayaking in Sicily through his company Maremotu. Francesco & GianFranco looked after us wonderfully, leaving us with a fantastic impression of the seakayaking culture in Italy. Get in touch with Francesco via his website if you fancy some warm water seakayaking ( and fine cuisine) this winter!!

During the symposium, eating and drinking well was as important as paddling. During the 3 days of teaching classes, there was officially 2 hours break for lunch ( and in practice perhaps a little more). All the participants could be seen sitting around tables filled with pasta, local cheeses, salamis, olives, sun dried tomatoes, huge pieces of fruit and a little red wine or beer. I would never usually drink alcohol at lunch while paddling but it somehow seemed the right thing to do in Italy! While in Rome...... Every lunch and dinner time, we either ate at restaurants or Francesco's family cooked some delicious traditional food for us.

The paddling itself was great with clear, warm, turquoise water and we mostly wore light shorts and a rash vest or light-weight shirt to kayak in. The location was the beautiful Aeolian islands to the north of Sicily - a group or 7 volcanic islands which spear the sea. The symposium was held on Vulcano, one of the 2 still active volcanoes. On our first day we were officially free to be tourists and we climbed up the volcano to see all the plumes of sulphuric gasses streaming out of the crater. In the afternoon, we kayaked 14 miles around Vulcano, exploring caves and impressive volcanic formations. We even found our own little cave with a hot spring in it. Our route can be seen here on Sanoodi.

On the 4th day there was a 3-mile race and we were encouraged to take part. It was Barry's first race, and my second ( I competed in a middle distance race in Jersey, Channel islands about 11 years ago, shortly after i started kayaking). There was quite a fun buzz around the race, and a force 4/5 wind made things a bit more exciting. We had to kayak around a few rocks, across to the neighboring island of Lipari, and back the same way. Although this is the Mediterranean, there was a small tidal race between the two islands with wind against tide forming a few breaking waves. This worked to my and Barry's advantage as the people in the faster racing kayaks were a bit slower in the rougher water. Barry overtook the leaders and was winning the race until the sea flattened out closer to the bay on the way back. He came in 3rd, close on the heels of 2 people in an Inuk, and another fast boat. I came in 5th, and 1st woman. I have avoided competing in seakayaking before, preferring to enjoy the sport, but I really enjoyed this race - it was great fun!

The next morning a 4-day tour of the islands started. By now we were familiar with "Italian time" which was more of a guide to when things would start than an actual rule. But from now on time-keeping was a bit more important as we had between 20-30km to paddle every day. It still wasn't close to 'swiss time' and the 9am start on the first day turned into more like 10.45am, but that still wasn't bad for some people packing their kayaks for a trip for the first time! We really enjoyed paddling around and between Vulcano, Lipari, Salina & Panarea.
The routes can be seen on Sanoodi - day 1 -
day 2 - day 3 - day 4 -

We saw a pod of dolphins jumping playfully out of the water and a turtle! The first turtle I've seen from a kayak!

Also a guest at the symposium was Helen Wilson, who is very good at Greenland style rolling ( and entered the Greenland kayak championships in 2008), and a good paddler and fun girl! We enjoyed hanging out with Helen and thanks to her for helping me with some of my rolls!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good timing. I was just looking a Maremotu's website as I'm planing a trip to Malta and Italy next spring. The plan is to kayak, do some sightseeing and drink lots of wine. Sounds like Sicily is the place to go for that! Your description of lunch alone is enough to make me want to go!
It looks like you had a great time. Those cliffs are quite impressive...

10:14 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Helen was bugging to go to the Symposium... Looks like I should have taken her advice!

4:22 am  

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