Up Napoli & West Coast

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Samarang 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.

We had 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 out.

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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 manhole though! 

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 Napoli 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.

Up Napoli & West Coast
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Last updated 18th March 2018