Straits of Messina Transect

Friday July 16th

Today we woke up early and left our anchorage at Vulcano Island and headed to the Straits of Messina 20 miles away.  The plan was to collect a sample at the north entrance, anchor for 5 hours to process the sample.  Once the sample was completed then head to the middle of the straits collect another sample, anchor again process that sample, and pick up another sample on the south side of the straits and keep sailing towards the Adriatic Sea.

Map of the Straits of Messina (Red X )

Satellite Image of Straits of Messina

The Strait of Messina is 20 miles (32 km) long and from 2 to 10 miles (3.2-16 km) wide, separating the Italian peninsula from Sicily and connecting the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. The massive amounts of water being funneled into a relatively small space creates strong currents and whirlpools.  Since this is the area where two big bodies of water meet, we wanted to make sure we collected samples along a north/south transect.

John helping collect the sample in the middle of the Straits of Messina

Swordfish Boat

Swordfish Boat

As we collected our samples we saw a lot of these swordfish fishing boats.  The boat is actually driven by one of the guys on the top of the mast, also up there are a couple spotters.  They are looking for swordfish that sleep during the day near the surface.  Once they find one they can slowly approach it and a harpoonist launches a harpoon from the extremely long bowsprit!

Another Swordfish Fishing Boat

Sunset as we left the straits and headed into the Ionian Sea

2 Responses to “Straits of Messina Transect”


  • I stumbled upon your site while looking for navigation tips for a journey from Naples through the Strait of Messina and the Strait of Otranto and across the Ionian Sea to Corfu.
    If you have any more information on this journey, or part of it, could you give me a reference or – if you have the time – post it to me.
    This is not for a sailing trip but for a historical novel in the Nathan Peake series published by Hodder Headline in the UK under the name Seth Hunter and of course I will publish a fulsome credit.
    with best wishes
    Paul Bryers

  • Hello Paul,

    Sorry for taking so long to reply to you. I am not sure I would be very useful to you, I am the scientist on this sailboat. I can tell you that the currents in the Straits of Messina are very strong and there are counter currents below the surface. Winds in the Ionian sea can pick up out of nowhere and get very strong. I have sailed around the world, spent a summer in the Baltic Sea and been to Antarctica two times by boat, the weather I experienced this summer in the Mediterranean Sea is easily the most unpredictable and severe I have seen.

    Jeff Hoffman

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