The other side
23 August 2009 | Porto Communale, San Remo
If you turn left, you're in our world. Here there are various finger pontoons and quays, and a lot more ordinary boats. On your immediate left, sticking out from the main breakwater are two smaller fingers. The first is only a breakwater, but also protects quite a few fishing boats. The next one is a bigger L-shaped pontoon, home to several small yachts. Beyond that is the quay, and you can see the arrow pointing to the line of boats moored bow or stern-to. (Yes it is RG on the end.)
The pontoon berths belong to the Yacht Club and are private; there seems to be no arrangement for visiting yachts to use them at all. Perhaps some serious chatting up of the YC would work, but that would require (at the least) better Italian than we are ever likely to manage.
According to Heikell, and to various other boaties we had met, this quay is free for up to three days. And, mirable dictu, this turns out to be true. Even with electricity and water. And in practice, especially with the wind so unhelpful, no-one seems to pay attention to obvious birds of passage who are wind-bound for a few days more.
What are the downsides? Well, it's not as secure and palatial as a marina. There is an ablutions block we haven't explored yet. For us, though, the biggest one was an unanticipated opportunity to test our stern anchoring arrangements. There are lines off the quay - but none were left when we arrived, although there were quite a few spaces.
For the uninitiated, in a lot of central and eastern Mediterranean ports, you moor by pointing one end of your boat at the quay, dropping an anchor some distance away and then using that anchor to hold you off the hard concrete, and your lines on to the quay to hold you straight, and enable you to get ashore. So far, we have not had to do this, always finding places where a line has been laid from the quay to a mooring out in the harbour; you haul this up on a boathook and attach it to an aft cleat, and it does the same job for you, with a lot less effort. We will always go in bows-to: with solar panel, self-steering, life-raft, dinghy and everything else, getting off our stern is a major challenge. This means we can't use our main bower anchor, which a lot of boats do, but must run one off the stern.
The time had come, rather unprepared, for us to try all this for ourselves. Pip had done it once, on her Greek day-skipper course four years ago. Sarah's never done it. The anchor was on the stern, with 10m of 10mm chain and 30m of (new) 15mm rope for precisely this moment. So, we decided to give it a go.
Well - we ended up tied on, but unable to get far enough back to keep off the quay: Sarah had dropped the anchor far too late and there wasn't enough cable in the water to hold us off. After a lot of faffing about we decided to get the anchor up and try again.
Ho hum! Could we get our 15kg Fortress anchor up? No, we couldn't. Even after we'd reversed out over it and were trying to haul it up while getting blown about in rather a confined space. In the end, we tied a fender to the end of the rope and threw the lot overboard, rather than further risk hitting other vessels. Then we reverse-parked onto the fuel dock (showing we do at least know how to drive the boat!) and collapsed to think a moment.
In all this we'd been given lots of help by the skippers of two French yachts. They'd taken our lines, come up with lots of ideas and generally talked a lot (in French). Jean then, to our amazement, calmly sculled over to our anchor and hoiked it out of the mud. Obviously we need to spend more time in the gym. He brought it over to us at the fuel dock and we stowed it again and thought some more.
Further conversation with Jean, his partner Francine and the next door skipper Andre, suggested another solution. We came in alongside Jean's boat, on the end of the row, and used his tailed line. We then tied his boat (which is 3m smaller and lot lighter than RG) to us, with elasticated lines. He can go whenever he likes, and we are all held safely off the concrete.
Hence the quest for a chandlery: today we have bought a stern roller to fit on the aft deck and take the chain, making the whole process easier to handle. It may not solve all the problems, but it's certainly a necessary step. Another one will be to mark the rope. And to get better at dropping the blasted thing much sooner.
The lovely Jean, Francine, Andre, and Josie then invited us aboard for drinks. They also have two dogs (Mingus and Chloe) who got a bonanza of treats from Pip. The two boats have sailed in company for years, and it was delightful to talk to them. They gave us lots of hints for the Italian coast to come, not least to bargain down the marina price in Genoa, and to go to St Marguerite de Ligure and visit Portofino from there.
In the meantime, the forecast remains persistently irritating. We will recover for another night or two here and then move on towards Genoa. Even no wind would be preferable to fighting this strong east-north-easterly, which slows us down and could blow up a nasty sea without much warning. But if we have to keep coastal and go against it, we will do shorter hops. A gentle exploration of the Italian Riviera isn't too hard.