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Pantelleria and the nearby Pelagic islands are a world of their own waiting to be explored and rediscovered. With a latitude less than Tunisia's, they offer eternal summer climate

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Nautica Magazine 410, June 1996


Pantelleria and Pelagic Islands

Continuous submarine volcanic eruptions between Sicily and the north African coast, the last occurring as last as in 1980, have produced the Pantelleria cone spouting from a thousand meters depth to the island's higher peak. 836 meters above sea level, from where a breathtaking view can be had of the Sicilian coast and Tunisian coast.

Pantelleria coastline is pure lava hardly smoothed by the sea motion which instead breaks the rocks crating coves and gorges. Ashore, ravines, volcanic bombs and geysers leave space to man-made terraces dug in the rock, characteristically festooning the stony land where vineyards have been grown for centuries. Land farming traditions have been in fact privileged over the years to seaborne activities.

Growing the typical "zibibbo" and "muscatel passito" grapes from which the sweetly tasty wines derive, dates back many centuries. Once a Phoenician landing known as Yrnm, the island was a Carthaginian base during the lengthy wars against Rome and became, later, a port of the Roman empire who renamed it Cossyra. An Arab domination followed by the Norman's rule after their Sicilian conquest, is also part of the island's history. Later on, at the time of the Italian peninsula maritime republics, the Gonoese rule it at length. Today Pantelleria main resource is tourism greatly enhanced by a landing air strip built here during the second world war, which provides short flights links to Sicily.

Pantelleria and Pelagic Islands Reaching Pantelleria by sea, possibly riding a yacht, is certainly more entertaining than flying in: only sixty miles separate it from Mazzara del Vallo, upon reaching it, one has the choice of six port facilities there. The old and new ports (Porto Vecchio and Porto Nuovo) are close by the town. The former, with Carthaginian ruins and lying in the basin's middle area, can take boats with draught up to 6 meters; daylight entrance only is recommended due to works being carried out at the breakwater. Porto Nuovo can take instead boats up to 12 meters LOA directly at the main dock and two floating piers. With the exception of the landings at Campobello, Cava di Levante, and Cava Tramontana which can only provide occasional shelter, the other available port installation is at the small Scauri marina located on the south west island's side. With two floating piers able to accommodate 60, 15 meters long boats.

The Pelagic archipelago made of the Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione reefs is Italy's southernmost boundary. Diverse as to their geological appearance with white calcareous Lampedusa and black volcanic Linosa, they share a pleasantly dry climate yelding an uninterrupted summer: winter is indeed the best season, when cultures and vegetation take a bright green shades.

Linosa is the most secluded location in the Italian territory: its link to the main land, a ferry, is often denied docking by the frequent adverse meteorological conditions and the island's supply is more often than not, infrequent and insufficient. Eight months droughts, on the other hand, do not help the dry, meagre soil whose produces are poor indeed. Community was established there in 1845 by captain Bernardo Sanvinsente and it was certainly not he first organized island's establishment as proved by Roman and Arabs vestiges found there; the absence of fresh water has, however, constituted a formidable obstacle to Linosa development. Created by a volcanic eruption, the island is only the tip of the crater that generated it, 400 meters below. The particular geological rocks configuration is responsible for the strikingly clear waters where the fish fauna is a surprising Mediterranean and Tropical mixture including, Lanteen Sails and Barracudas. All this at a mere 31 miles from Lampedusa, 63 from Malta and 71 from Porto Empedocle (Sicily).

Linosa offers few precarious landings at the old wharf in front of the town: 120 meters of quay fitted with cleats and mooring rings fit for small size boats and a 80 meters long breakwater whose inner side permits the moorings to boats with 10 meters LOA although it is almost permanently taken by the ferry. The recommended anchorage with good holding grounds is in the proximity of the finger piers protecting the landing where 15 meters water depth and first and fourth quadrant shelter is available.

Pozzolana cove on the island's west coast has an 80 meters long quay with a small pier of equal length ending with a 22 meter wide head. Small boats will find shelter here to N-E and S-E winds.

Lampedusa has instead a richer past as well evidenced by the recent prehistoric findings. Both Phoenicians and Romans landed here although the best preserved vestiges belong to the fortifications erected against the Barbaresque pirates. Subsequent Borbonic rule was followed by Bernardo Sanvinsente farm colonization almost entirely lost when fishing was thought to be a better living source. Tourism finally took over and is today the mainstay of the island's survival.

Geological speaking Pantelleria sits on the African continental shelf with which the island surfaced at the onset of the Pliocene era. Its rocky reefs and coasts, where calcium carbonate and magnesium predominate, extends for more than 11 kilometers over a strip no more than 4 kilometers. Rocky and steep to the north and low and sandy to the south, the island offer one port landing only to the south of the town.

Lampedusa port is made by a wide inlet divided in three coves: Cala Guitgia, Cala Salina and Cala Palma. The first only offers moorings in the middle of a stone cliff. Salinàs only dock is permanently crowded. Palma cove has partial docking facilities completed by a small pier where about 10 yachts can be accommodated. Larger boats will anchor off shore as the majority of the fishing vessels do. Cala Pisana, a cove on the eastern coast, should be reached well before S-W winds pick up.

Sicily channel islands port infrastructures are scanty; they are however blessed with reasonably stable weather conditions that should allow for visits devoided of pressing docking and refuge problems.