Me and NATO? Not a good start! But more on that later...
We pulled into Baia at the north end of the Bay of Naples about 4 days ago after an overnighter from Tropea and dropped the hook right in front of a power boat manufactuer, Fiart, I was joking that it was a cross between Fiat and fart! But I shouldn't joke too much because it is their mechanic who will hopefully repair the Suzuki outboard motor (broken drive linkage) on Monday.
In the meantime, that gave us a few days to kick around the Bay of Naples. This morning we moved the boat over 5 nm to Nissida, where Will and I went ashore to explore Pompeii. We paddled the dinghy over to shore and tied it up in front of a cool looking building with a bunch of flags in front of it and something to do about NATO. When I went inside to inquire how to get to Pompeii, I met an Anerican in Army fatigues and an Italian Navy officer. The navy officer, Pascuale, gave us some great directions and even drove us into town to the train station.
After a couple of train transfers Will and I arrived safely at Pompeii. It is quite an amazing place. The ash has been completely excavated such that you wouldn't know the town was ever buried. The streets and municipal planning evident reminded me of Ephesus - the streets were well defined and preserved. Oddly, the Roman streets were not nearly as flat as the Greek streets of Ephesus. The cobblestones of Pompeii were quite large and round, making for some difficult footing while walking the streets. And the streets have huge ruts in them. I do not know if the ruts were there from the Romans, or from the excavation teams, but they were quite pronounced.
There is a small, Greek-style amphitheater that is wired for lights and sound, so it is still being used for concerts. We saw an ancient tavern, a couple of shrines, the agora (marketplace), and some once-beautiful homes with fresco paintings on the walls. One of the funniest finds was a brothel. This tiny structure had about 6 small bedrooms and a small bathroom. Each bedroom had a stone bed (that they hopefully covered with some kind of padding), and little else. These were totally 'functional' rooms!! But what was particularly funny was the walls in the hallway were painted with fresco scenes of a man and a woman in various 'situations' - kind of like pre-neo porn!!
We were told that the streets of Pompeii were washed each night by flooding. I guess they would open the gates from an aqueduct somewhere and let the water run down the streets for awhile and wash all the animal droppings and dirt down the hill. That required the sidewalks to be higher than the streets themselves. Towards the bottom of the hill the sidewalk was considerably higher - apparently all the water running down the streets collected here before it exited the city. At the intersection stones were placed to allow pedestrians to cross the flooded street. If it was a small artery, it only had one large stepping stone. For busy thoroughfares, there would be 3 such stones.
Will and I got our fill of Pompeii and after a quick lunch of pizza and fresh-squeezed orange juice, we boarded the trains for the return home. After shopping in town for groceries and catching a taxi, we rode back to the NATO base. Except we had one teeny-weeny little problem - they were going to let a couple of civilians back onto their military base!! If things got out of control, I was prepared to use my 170 lb. ripped and chiseled body - and the full menu of martial arts I have acquired - to subdue the two 250 lb. MPs. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and an international incident was avoided!
I didn't have my passport with me, but after giving them my vitals they 'escorted' Will and I to our dinghy and watched us leave. As we were paddling away I was pretty sure I could feel at least one pair of eyes burning a couple of holes in the backs of our heads!! When we got back to our boat we couldn't get out of there fast enough! So we weighed anchor and had a lumpy 7 nm motor over to Isole Procida. I should warn any sailors right here and now that the Bay of Naples is purely power boat country! There are soooo many power boats (and mega yachts) and the water is so chopped up with their wake, that the concept of 'sailing' requires at least 10-15k of breeze just to punch through the waves. Other than Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and a few other sights, this bay should be avoided!!
07/18/2010, Tropea, Italy
We haven't had wifi for over a week! Finally! We were in the Aeolian Islands last week and there was simply no wifi anywhere.
So I have posted -- get this -- 6 blogs for those of you who want to catch up on what we have been doing. There have been some interesting stories, including the jellyfish sting and snagging the anchor.
I'll leave it at that and give you a chance to catch up on your reading, then bring you up to date in a day or so. Sorry about that, and sorry to keep you wondering.
07/16/2010, Isole Vulcano, Italy
Sorry about the 'batch' of blogs. (Free) wifi is hard to come by in Italy and I haven't been willing to pony up the euros to get a SIM card for it. This, I think, is the 4th blog I am having to post.
Will and I started yesterday by getting up early (for us!) and hiking the volcano. This island is named after the very new and very active feature of the same name. There is no vegetation on this cone and a sulfuric smoke constantly rising from the rim of the caldera. It sometimes permeates the anchorage - Ruth thought at first it was our heads smelling!
The 6 mile climb up to the top was hot and a good workout. But it was well worth it. It reminded me of Yellowstone with all of its smoking, but without the water. There isn't a drop of water on the mountain. The bottom of the caldera has a little bit of what is probably mud, but otherwise everything is dry, dry, dry. The smoke constantly emanating from the northern part of the rim is a constant reminder that this baby is in that realm of Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Etna.
Upon our return to the boat Will and I couldn't wait to jump in the water. We had a great swim. So great that later in the afternoon I decided I would do a few laps around the boat to cool off and for some exercise. (It is pretty cool - about this time of year I and everyone else has this golden tan and buff body from all the exercise!) Anyhow, I am on my second lap when all of a sudden I feel a sharp 'twang'. I knew instantly that I had gotten stung by a jelly fish.
He (or she!) hit me right next to the mouth, on the cheek, and again on the chest. I swam as fast as I could for the swim step and yelled at Ruth to get me some meat tenderizer. But of course, we didn't have any meat tenderizer! Aaagggghhh! My face swelled quite high in the immediate area of the stings. The chest hit wasn't so bad - mostly bothersome. But the sting at the mouth was quite a concern. Jellyfish come in all sizes and shapes - and danger to humans. I didn't know what variety I had run into, and was worried this might be one of the bad ones. I was frustrated that I knew first aid for a jellyfish sting but didn't have the remedy.
So I sat in the cockpit and endured the pain. I pulled some mellaluca out of the first aid pack and put that on, but it did little or nothing. Then Ruth put some castor oil on the sting in the hopes that the castor oil would draw the poison out. Neither did much of anything as best as I can tell, and I endured the incredible pain of the poison for about half an hour before things started to subside.
It was a rude lesson that we need to get us some bite/sting remedy! I now believe that everything probably would have been fine with that jellyfish if my mouth hadn't gotten so close to the jellyfish that it thought it was going to get eaten. It probably reacted out of instinct.
In other news, the anchorage was grimly entertained when a sailboat motored in at a pretty good clip and found a submerged rock off to one side. He must have hit that thing at about 4-5 knots and it made a loud, ugly sound that made all the skippers cringe. It could have been any one of us - though it stood as a lesson learned that it probably isn't a good idea to come steaming into an unknown anchorage at or near full throttle! I don't know if the boat is a charter or not. But I am constantly amazed at how so many skippers - particularly the charter skippers -- handle their boats. They swing those puppies around like, well, a rental. Nothing drives like a rental, eh?!!
07/14/2010, Isole Filicudi, Aeolian Islands
A quick morning trip into town at Cefalu' garnered a couple of bobbin cases for the sewing machine and we quickly weighed anchor for the 40 nm trip to the Aeolian Islands. What little wind we had was contrary, so we motored the entire way. Along the way I 'accidentally' fell over into the 83 deg. water to give Will and Ruth a little practice at man overboard situations. That was a refreshing drill!
We arrived at the north end of Isole Fiticule late in the afternoon. I remember traveling to Malta from the south of Sicily and remarking how we were out in the middle of the Med and it was only 50 meters (65') deep. Here, water depths range from 600 to over 1000 meters (3300') deep!! You would have thought this deep of water would be cold but not so. As previously mentioned, the water was like bath water. And clear. The deep water must flush out all the garbage. It is particularly neat to watch the shimmering sun's rays penetrate deep into the blue abyss. Takes me back to the 60s!!
The Aeolian Islands are named after the Greek god Aeolus, the god of wind who served up contrary winds to Homer on his odyssey. They are all volcanic (think Mt. Etna to the south and Pompeii to the west), and very dramatic.
Off Isole Fiticule is a spire that rises some 10 stories (100') into the air! It is so strange to see from afar as well as up close. I mean, here you are in this really deep water and this spire must be all of 40' in diameter rising out of this deep water. It is quite amazing. Next to it is a small rock with water depths shallow enough for anchoring. Will and I went for a snorkel and what we saw underwater was amazing.
It won't be like the snorkeling in the South Pacific, I know. But for the Med, it is truly amazing. At one point in our snorkel Will and I witnessed a false floor to the sea. There was a lacework of lava on the sea bed. But underneath was a whole labyrinth of dark passageways, teeming I am sure with sea life.
When we were done snorkeling it was time to find an anchorage for the night since that anchorage apparently only allowed daytime use. When we went to lift the anchor, no go! Ugh! Now it is late in the day, I am sort of tired, and there is maybe only an hour of sun left. We tried different angles to bring it up using the boat, but to no avail.
Ruth and I had snagged our anchor in rock on the island of Rhodes earlier this spring. But we managed to free it while Will was still asleep. So Will (my bow man in anchoring situations) had no experience in this situation. After trying to free the anchor by tugging on it from various directions, we tried letting out more chain and getting a shallower angle to the anchor. I thought that might help free it. Wrong!
To make a one hour, exasperating and frustrating and panicky experience shorter, the bottom line was I had to dive the anchor! Now as mentioned in a previous email, I have lived my early adult, California life rather, shall we say, fast! Many times I had little regard for the eventual impact of situations on my body (and mind). As a result, I have managed to blow out the following body parts: eardrums, knees, voice box, and labrums in the shoulders.
It was the blowing out of the eardrums in the 70s that I was cruelly reminded of once again as I had to dive 10' down to free the anchor and chain. After the ordeal it was like I needed to pop my eardrums on an airplane flight...only I was at sea level! They hurt. But after a couple of dives, we were able to free the anchor.
There had been two problems (for those of you taking notes at home!). The first was that when we were raising the anchor we did not bring the chain up slowly so that it always came up in a vertical position. I think Will just figured he could bring it up like he usually does, often at an angle to the sea bed. But in this case the chain managed to lodge itself between two rocks such that it prevented any further up haul. The second problem is when we let out more chain to get a shallower attack angle on the anchor, we let the chain out quicker than the boat moved and we ended up wrapping the extra length of chain around a huge boulder.
So I had to dive the anchor twice - once to unwrap it around the boulder and once to free the chain from being jammed between two rocks. In the end, the anchor itself was fine and came up without a hitch. Lesson(s) learned!
We quickly motored over to an anchorage on the south side of the main island. The steep shorelines leave little room for anchorages. We managed to squeeze in between a couple of boats in 15 meters (50 ft.) water. It was our first time using a 3:1 "summertime" anchor rode. Usually we put out 4 or 5 times the water depth in anchor rode. But when spaces are tight (and you expect the wind to stay light), then only putting out 3 times the depth in rode means less swinging on anchor.
Next up is the island of Lipari. Apparently these islands have been settled since 5000 BC and there is a museum cataloging all the civilizations that have used these islands to promote their commercial empires. We'll check it out and report back.
We've spent an extra day here getting provisions (laundry and groceries) before setting out for the Aeolian Islands. We figure they won't have much, so we better stock up on everything. It was nice taking an extra day - kind of like stopping to catch your breath since it seems like we have been moving so fast so far.
Trey and Matt just visited from a 50-meter American yacht, and that was fun. They are crew on it, but the owners are presently away. I am just so curious how "the other half" lives so I kept asking them stupid questions. I hope I didn't bug them too much!
But the big news is the dinghy. Our Suzuki outboard went kaput several weeks ago and I haven't been able to find a mechanic to fix it. But I wasn't worried because we had the oars and could row where we needed to most of the time.
Well, today one of the oarlock pins broke (for the 3rd time). So now to use the dinghy we need 2 people - one to row with the good oar and the other to paddle. Looks like the dinghy repair just moved up on the repair list to 'urgent AND important'!!
07/11/2010, Palermo, Italy
Trapani is one busy place! That harbor has fishing boats, ferries, freighters, and, of course, pleasure yachts coming and going at all hours of the day. Being anchored out in the outer harbor means you get allll the rolly wake! So I didn't need any more encouragement when I woke up at 0600 with the boat rocking and rolling like a Roy Orbison song!
Up I jumped and headed straight for the anchor locker and we weighed anchor. I particularly glad about the timing because it meant we had a chance to get around San Vito lo Capo at an early hour. This cape, like so many other capes, looks like it could get really nasty. It is the westernmost point of Sicily and just hangs out there exposed like a flasher in a raincoat. With our early departure from Trapani, I estimated an ETA to the cape at around 0800, hopefully early enough to miss any nasties. We got our single sideband (SSB) working yesterday (more on that later). The weather forecast we downloaded said we should have fairly calm winds, but I didn't want to take any chances - I know how forecasts can be!
We motored north up to the cape and I was right (or lucky!). Calm seas and a 10k northerly in the face was just fine by me! When we got the cape there was a convergence of sailboats. Four of us turned the corner at the same time and headed east. One was a Bavaria 48 coming probably from Sardinia. Then there was the little red boat that I had seen in Trapani and must have left just a short bit ahead of us. Finally, a Dutch-flagged sloop left the port at San Vito and joined our little armada.
As soon as we turned the corner we all turned off our motors and started sailing close hauled in the northeasterly. The race was on! Unfortunately, when the wind quit our little race was suspended as we all hoisted our 'iron genoas'. That was OK because it gave us a chance to look at the beautiful and dramatic cliffs of Sicily. These cliffs are different from the rock formations of Greece. Greece has cliffs that are hard, chiseled rock with a cold look to them. These cliffs were more rounded and fertile, but equally as dramatic.
Finally the wind kicked in and we turned off the motor and did some real sailing. The American team was looking pretty good. We were leading the fleet. I am not sure what the Bavaria's problem was because they would make these erratic course changes like they were headed back to Sardinia and before we knew it, they were sailing again in our direction. The little red boat occastionally used "engine assist" to keep up which I felt was fair since she was the smallest in class. The Dutch boat, which I affectionately named "The Dutchman", was well sailed and appeared to be our toughest competition.
The red boat tacked to clear a point and after awhile we tacked to cover. But then Will and I got into some heavy-duty Yahtzee and we ended up overstanding the layline to the next point by about a mile and a half!! Ooops!! By that point the Bavaria 48 was somewhere way back trying to figure out how to make the thing go. The Dutchman had started his motor rather than face the embarrassment of tacking and the little red boat called the layline perfectly and had caught up to our line when we overstood. Of course, we were still to weather of him and I figured we would rotate in front of him as we cracked off and reached for the last main point before Palermo. Boy, was I surprised when that little bugger didn't rotate. I think he might have been using his engine, and I am going to ask any judges around to penalize him accordingly! Eventually we did rotate in front of him and started to catch up to the Dutchman, who by now was sailing.
But, alas, just as we rolled out "the secret weapon" (the spinnaker), the Dutchman rolled out his secret weapon (the iron genoa). As the red boat motored past us rounding the point we were left in a distant 3rd. Of course, I wasn't racing, so it didn't bother me at all! And besides, I was happy to let them "think" they had beaten us. But as soon as I finish this, I am writing a letter to the World Cruising Union (or whomever!) requesting redress!!!
We got into Palermo (or Portobello or Palmero - I kept calling it something different every time!) around 1800. I bellied up to the bar for a night's lodging in a marina. Whoa! Hey, Big Spender! Well, let me tell you. 60 euro ($75 USD) doesn't buy what it used to. Sure we get to touch terra firma. But we also have to endure the wake of every boat coming and going from this marina. And did I mention there is no wifi? And the water is NOT potable! I got a shower tonight by using the owner's personal shower in the warehouse he rents. It was only one step up from the shower in Cagliari I had last summer when I was showering in front of God and all of his people...in the marina!!
So this has been a bust. I suspect, like Trapani, we will be outta here. I mean, what does a big city have for us? This one doesn't have much I don't think. Our neighbor went to an ampitheatre tonight for an opera. That is cool. I might even be interested in enduring one night of opera just to show Will how painful music really can be!! But other than that, unless there is some really cool castle, cathedral, walled city, or something, a city is just another city. So I think tomorrow we find some potable water and then head outta here for the Aeolian Islands. I gotta feeling we are going to like hanging out there and I want to get there soon to spend as much time as possible there.
Will got the SSB modem working yesterday. That means we no longer have to run blind. If we don't have wifi (which is pretty common now in Italy) then we can at least download a forecast via the SSB. Will discovered a screw had punctured the cable connecting the modem to the computer. Once he extracted the screw, presto! SSB modem works!
I really need to put a good word in for a couple of outfits who helped us out. Gary at Dockside Radio (out of Florida) really helped us troubleshoot our problem. I had bought a few random parts from Dockside when I installed the SSB. But it wasn't any earth-shattering purchase. But when I went to him out of desperation to help us get our modem working, he gave and gave of his expertise.
And when we had explored all of his options and it looked like the problem might be with the modem, he referred us to SCS, the manufacturer of the Pactor modem, and SCS also has tremendous customer support. So if you planning on getting a SSB radio, I would highly recommend getting an Icom M802 radio with Pactor IIusb modem (with Pactor III license) AND buy them from Dockside Radio. You will be heartened by the customer service he/they provide. (By the way, it was Gary's suggestion to try replacing the USB cable which ultimately solved our problem.)