gleaming with fresh varnish for the new season.
|After a few days in
our own personal paradise at Porto Conte we headed north round Sardinia
and through the Fornelli Passage and the Bonifacio Straights, heading
for the Maddelenas. We'd sailed this route the previous year so the
trip through Fornelli wasn't quite as scary - though Lindy assures me it
wasn't scary anyway. This time she steered, which left me free to
fret and witter about the depth. We anchored in perfect turquoise water behind Isola Piana (which forms one side of the passage) in the
company of all of the seagulls that were left over after Hitchcock had
finished making The Birds.
Across Golfo dell Asinara, then tacking through the
Bonifacio - oops now we're in Corsican waters, shall we change our
courtesy flag? - No. Tack again, back in Italy. And finally
we're in the Maddelenas. We anchor 5 times! Finally we find a
small patch of sand and manage to get the anchor in. We always
wonder at times like that, whether we're being a bit over cautious when we
check the anchor is set, but on this occasion we had no sooner got the
anchor in to our satisfaction than we were able to sit sipping a cold beer
watching an Élan 45 that had run aground and took an awfully long time, and
needed the assistance of a very powerful power boat, to get themselves
off. So we'll go on being over cautious. There was also a lone
Scots chap there who decided to serenade the bay with his bagpipes while
the sun went down - it takes all sorts!
||We had a few reasons for being
here in the Maddelenas - that they're extremely beautiful, and were 'on
the way' anyway are obviously two reasons, but also we were planning
to meet up with our old friend David on Night Owl (see foto) who we had re-encountered in
Fertilia and he was anchored in the bay. Also the next day we
sailed to the marina in Maddalena town - slightly touristy, but very
pretty - to meet up with Jim, our US Marine friend, who we had first
encountered in Rota 2003. The US Navy have a base in Rota and
Maddalena - I wonder if anyone has ever asked why the US Navy have bases
in all these beautiful tourist destinations? I'm sure there must
be good strategic reasons for being close to beautiful beaches!
Finally, after all
the socialising and pottering it was time to sail off to somewhere we
hadn't been before. Our plan was to sail down the Italian coast and
round into the Adriatic. We had a plan to sail into Venezia and then
down the coast of Croatia. Not sure now if we'd given up any of
these grand ideas at this point, but if not we would soon.
The natural route for us was to sail about 150 miles
almost due east to the island of Ponza, which is about 50 miles from the
Italian mainland. This is a 25-30 hour trip for us, depending on the
wind and as is normal in the Med we sailed some and motored some and had a
pretty good trip.
I need to digress at this point - I had always been
fascinated by the fact that almost all of the long distance sailors we
met seemed to spend all their time catching fish. "Just troll a line
over the back and stop fishing when the freezer's full"
apparently. We didn't actually have a freezer - that's another story.
So before we had left Alghero,
with much expert advice from David on Night Owl, I had taken the plunge and invested in some proper
gear. We trolled the line around Sardinia in the Maddelenas with no result
and then, on our crossing from Sardinia to Italy, (under full
sail) the line just started ripping off the reel. It took me a fair few
seconds to realise what was happening - what is that buzzing noise? Bloody
hard work getting it to the boat and then real problems trying to get the
gaff into it, and then we lost it. Now, I know the ones that get away are
always big, but seriously guys this one really was the mother of all tuna
- it was nearly a metre long and must have weighed 20 lb!! We'd have been
eating sushi for weeks. As it came off the hook I just watched as, in
slow motion, it dropped straight down getting smaller and smaller as it got
deeper and deeper. Ah well! But at least we knew it was possible to
actually catch a fish. On the plus side we still had the lure - though I
had a distinct feeling the E250 could have been better spent in the
pescheria buying tuna steaks.
Back to the main story, we anchored off Ponza
(outstanding rock formations) for a
couple of days until the wind picked up and made the anchorage really
uncomfortable, which was our signal to make a (very) early start after
little sleep and head
off for Italy.
a fantastic sail across with 20knots of wind on the beam, screaming along at
8+knots. Why can't it always be like this?
One minor problem was that during our roller coaster ride, in the way
these things always happen, a water hose on our fresh water tanks
had ruptured and pumped our entire supply into the bilges. We
were enjoying ourselves too much to notice the bilge pump running (and yes,
of course, we should have had one of the tanks isolated).
Anyway this wasn't really a problem as we had our brand new 60 litres/hour watermaker. We turned it on and it ran for 10 minutes (ie 6
litres) and then stopped! Still no real problem, we were only a few miles from Circeo
our planned harbour and we could fill up there. Also our watermaker was
made by Schenker - based in Napoli - and we'd be there in a few days if we
couldn't fix it in the meantime.
Circeo is approached through a somewhat tentatively marked
winding channel through shifting sandbanks. And once inside..... This
was absolutely the fullest marina we had ever seen (though not that we
would see!). They had obviously lost a pontoon in the winter gales
and boats were moored everywhere, rafted up, tied to rocks,
everywhere. There were no people, only boats, and it was pretty
clear there was no room for a visiting yacht, so we inched our way back
Still not really a problem, we'd had an early start and had our
mind set on an early finish, but the wind was still good, and it was only
20 miles down the coast to Gaeta, which by all accounts was a beautiful
place, was run by the Cruising Association rep, and was somewhere we hoped
to visit. So we hoisted the sails, spoke to Schenker, who
after much telephone diagnosis confirmed that we would need a technician,
and then .............. We caught a fish!
Something similar to a small tuna, probably
around 3 lb, the perfect size for dinner for 2 and much easier to handle
for us amateurs. Eating the first fish we caught ourselves was something
of a high spot.
Anyway, Gaeta was lovely, but full and the wind that had given us a
great sail had now turned the beach into an unpleasant lee shore, the
temperature had dropped and rain threatened.
There was another "large and undistinguished harbour" across the
bay "with a new 500 berth marina" - so off we went - only
another hour. Well
the new marina has never been built, the existing marina was full to
bursting (remember this is only June) and we were beginning to contemplate sailing overnight to Napoli or anchoring off a lee shore and
sitting anchor watches all night. Then we were hailed by a very large
motor cruiser moored on the container dock. He'd spotted our predicament -
"You can tie up on the container dock here as long as you're gone by
0800 when the first container ship is due". Well we couldn't
have done it on our own, it was too high. I could only just reach
the dock by standing on our guard rails, but with their help we
managed. Also, by lying on the floor, with my arms deep in a flooded
manhole, I could hold some pipes together and we were able to take on some
water - we won't talk too much about what was floating around in the
|So on to Napoli - where the Marina wanted E140 per night (we had called
ahead this time - something we would continue to do) "that's very
expensive" is my starter for 10, which from our experience is the
normal 1st step in Italian negotiation, normally followed by a significant
reduction in price. Not this time though - "no it's just
enough" was the reply. More than enough for us!
We found a harbour at Nisida on the outskirts of Napoli for E50.
Big, crowded (naturally), friendly and absolutely miles from anywhere, not
even a local shop. Close enough to Napoli though for the Schenker technician
to turn up with a new high pressure pump. Riccardo Verde from
Schenker also gave us some useful advice on harbours, with the result that
we had a reservation a few days later at Castellammare di Stabia, south of
but on the Circumvesuviana (the local train that runs out of Napoli,
around Vesuvius and back again). But on the way we spent a night
anchored at Ischia (and successfully made our own water. Ischia is allegedly
the island where Ulysses/Odysseus was held captive by the beautiful Circe,
and whenever he wasn't busy entertaining her he was free to wander the
island, but apparently unable to find a way off. Now, Ischia is only
5 miles from the mainland and there's another island in between, which
means that there's not more than 1.5 miles of placid water to cross, and Ulysses
was a great seaman and athlete, but of course Circe was very beautiful and
he had to tell Penelope something to explain why he was so late home.