After our 32hour passage from Sardinia to Sicily, the straight of Messina was our next big sailing challenge. But let‘s start from the beginning.

Entrance to the strait of messina on a sailboat

We had been in the Aeolian Islands for 2 weeks, visited most of the Island, and been to Stromboli twice. The second time around, we had changed our crew, our friends had gone home and Greta‘s mum joined ForTuna to visit the Islands, which have been so long on her Travel list.


Our original plan was to sail back to Sicily and from there, approach the straight of Messina. However, after more detailed planning, we discovered that the North coast of Sicily close to the Straight was pretty bare and without protected anchorages. On the other hand, the mainland of Italy offered anchorages closer to the straight, which would allow us to pass the straight first thing in the morning and avoid arriving there tired from sailing.

So off we went to mainland Italy heading for Tropea. Looking back, it was a great decision. Not only did we manage to approach the straight safely, but we also visited one of the most stunning places so far. Funnily before visiting Tropea, we knew the city only because of the variety of onions named after it. Now, we will remember it forever for its steep cliffs, small streets, farmer markets and sanctuaries placed on cliffs overseeing the Italian coast. As you can see, we are pretty in love with Tropea, if you want to find out why read our 3 reasons to sail to Tropea.


After Tropea, we anchored as close as possible to the straight. We choose a small open bay in front of Paparone, Italy. Unfortunately, not safe from incoming swell, which diminished our sleep quality together with the excitement for the next day. However, we rose at 7 and at 8 we were already at the entrance of the straight. The straight is dangerous for sailors because of two strong currents meeting in it. For a more detailed description of the dangers connected to the strait of Messina, check out our Guide for Sailors for the Strait of Messina.

Entrance to the strait of messina on a sailboat
North Entrance to the Strait of Messina

As requested, we contacted the coast guard to inform them about our passage and asked for information about the canal. You can imagine the relief when the coast guard told us it was a perfect time of the day to pass. The winds were not strong and until 9 am we had a window to pass south. So with good spirit we entered the canal.

Entrance to the strait of messina on a sailboat
North Entrance to the Strait of Messina

Our good spirit was slightly dumped when we saw a fisher in front of us lose control over his small boat, which started to turn 180 degrees. Looking closer, we recognized a small whirlpool he had overseen. Luckily the fisher managed to get out of the vortex without any problems, but our concentration rose again, as we wanted to avoid having the same experience.

Vortex in the strait of messina
Countercurrents in the Strait of Messina
Whirlpool in the strait of messina on a sailboat
Whirlpools / Vortex in the Strait of Messina

When we reached the middle of the canal, the wind in our hair got stronger and we wondered what had happened. A look at the monitors showed that the wind we were experiencing was due to ForTunas speed. ForTuna was going at a speed of 10kts. A speed ForTuna had never reached before and never would again. It took us a while to understand that this speed was purely due to the strong currents in the canal. We were practically pushed out of it.

In the end, everything went perfectly well. We managed to avoid all the whirlpools and passed the canal more quickly than expected due to our new speed high.

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