Between Scilla and Charybdis, through the straits of Messina

‘You consider me a young apprentice, caught between Scilla and Charybdis. Hypnotised by you if I should linger, staring at the ring around your finger. I have only come here seeking knowledge, things they would not teach me up in college. I can see that destiny you sold, turning to a shining band of gold.’ Wrapped Around Your Finger, The Police

Between Sicily and mainland Italy is the Messina Strait. A place that three hundred years ago struck fear into the hearts of sailors.

Two dangers faced those taking the short cut to avoid going the long way round the island, the Render and Sucker. A reference to Messina in The Odyssey is undoubtably where the expression ‘between a rock and a hard place’ comes from.

Most now believe that an earthquake in 1783 altered the topography of the sea bed and stopped ships mysteriously disappearing, but strong tidal streams, faster than many yachts can sail, still flood through the gap. It is deeply disconcerting to see swirls of water to port and starboard, seemingly ready to suck the boat down into oblivion.

Making a carefully timed passage through this unnerving gap in a gale is interesting; in a flat clam almost equally eery. When the latter occurs, you inevitably encounter the sword fishing fleet; strange looking craft with scaffold tower’s high above to spot the fish and platforms at the front to spear them.

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