This narrow stretch of water separates mainland Italy from its largest island Sicily and takes its name from the city on its western shores. The channel is 20nm (32 km) long, 2nm (3 km) wide in the north (between Faro Point and the Rock of Scylla), and 10nm (16 km) wide in the south (between the Capes of Alì and Pellaro); it is 300 feet (90 m) deep at the northern end. One of the most significant sites here is of course the extremely active volcano of Mount Etna. The seas here were once sailed by Ulysses of the Homeric tales. On the eastern coast of Sicily reaching up from the shore of the island are large vertical stones which legend attributes to the Cyclops who hurled them at the fleeing Ulysses and his crew who had just blinded the giant. Further on up the Strait, there are extremely strong currents, attributable to a difference in density and temperature of the water between the Tyrrhenian and Middle Seas. These currents can generate large and intense whirlpools along the eastern shores of the Strait – mythology attributes these to the sea monster Charybdis. Ulysses feared his ship being drawn into one of these pools and being pulled to the bottom. On the other side the Strait is said to have lived the six-headed monster Scylla, notorious for catching and devouring sailors who dared pass through. The navigational challenge is to pass through the Strait avoiding the Scylla on the one side and the whirlpools or Charybdis on the other side.
Approximate distance from start (to Faro Point): 153nm
Approximate distance to finish (from Faro Point): 453nm