Crossing to Italy and sailing North
01 June 2010
We left Italy early one mooring at dawn just as it was getting light for an overnight sail to Sicily. 268 nm to Sicily. We spent much of the time under motor on a flat calm sea with little wind. Just the type of crossing your bank balance does not want to see and not the type of crossing a sailor does not want to see but for us just booooring. As we were 40 nm from land the barometer started to drop and we knew the weather was about to change. I have a rule to reef before you need to but in this case there was no wind so we had no sail up but the wind came up from nothing to 20 knots in a blink of Nelsons eye. Up went the main with one reef and out went the full Genoa. We were racing along at 7 and a bit knots with the wind on the beam. As we came nearer to Sicily the waves increased in size and the wind rose a few points. Drop the Genoa and out with the stay sail. By this time it was dark, very dark but the shore lights made seeing ahead difficult. I had the radar on and had set a waypoint at the northern end of Naxos bay. I could not see a thing and the wind was making sailing down the coast hard. I eventually recognized the bay on the radar and on the chart plotter hoping to move into the lee of the headland before dropping the sails. Plans worked well but the sea was still up. At last the quiet of the bay at about midnight. We motored around and found a spot that looked reasonable so down went the anchor. Off to sleep.
The next morning the swell had come through to those in the south of the bay so some came north to anchor along side us but when they reached us it was rock and roll. We up anchor and motored to Naxos Bay and dropped anchor just off the breakwater. Straight ashore to sit under a tree. What relief. We then took a bus to Taomina and the castle on the hill. While Denny and I were touring in the VW through Europe in the early '70 we read James Mitchner's book the Drifters. When we arrived at Taomina we had now visited all the towns mentioned in the book from Sicily, Italy, Spain and North Africa. Somehow the book is difficult to read these days for the world has moved on but then it had a clear message. Obama would laugh.
The next day we were again up early but this time to catch the tide in the Strait of Massina (see my blog at www.malua.blogspot.com for story) The tide is overrated but the sword fishing boats with their high towers still ply their trade in the straits. We made the decision to visit Tropea while Sundancer had planned to sail to the Eolian Island but prudence intervened and they joined us for a beam reach to the Marina.
We had visited Tropea in June of 2007 so knew our way about the town and the 104 steps it takes to climb up the cliff face to reach the town. This time it seamed shorter and less steep We had a average meal with Sundancer at a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant but the conversation was good.
We filled with water - the last water for more than a month and sailed north towards Amalfi. Stopping outside a small harbour at Cetraro then on north. We stop at a place recommended by Bondi Tram Porto Iscoletti. A small bay with mooring buoys which almost all were taken when we arrived but vacated as the sun set. Great evening.
We tried Agropoli but found no free space only berths at 70 euro a night. No thanks. We returned to San Marco where we had visited previously. We walked into the town and purchased some provisions and some wine which we enjoyed at anchor outside the harbour wall. Same place as 2007.
Then onto Amalfi where we arrived to be met by Aniellio with a berth towards the end of the harbour wall. That evening he came to us and asked if we would move closer in. Well of course. We moved and then set off into town to enjoy the sunset looking up at the church of Amalfi with it's famous door built in Istanbull and copied by the Knights of St John in many other places. Great drink watching the day trippers leave town and the locals come out to walk up the narrow main street.
We met George and Diana Hatwell from Kos on the dock and agreed to meet again the next day for a drink. We took the bus to Positano along the coast for a day sight seeing and looking at people. Rather than take the bus back to Amalfi we took the ferry and saw the cliff face from a different angle. The next day off to Capri in the hope the weather was calmer than previously and we could anchor out. Right through the day the day tripper boats passed us on their way to the Blue grotto but at 5:30 they stopped so off we went in the RIB to visit the grotto. We drove right past not recognizing the small hole which is the entrance. After realizing our mistake we returned to be told by a fellow standing on the rock we could go in and it was much larger inside. We both sat in the bottom of the RIB pulled the chain to guide us in and just then the swell rose and we were sucked into the grotto. It was dark but got lighter as our eyes got accustomed to the blue of the reflected light. We were alone in the Blue Grotto of Capri.. what an experience.
We then went ashore and took the funicular up the hill to walk around the many houses scattered over the hillside. After an hour or so we found our way down the hill back to the port to return to Malua. No wind no swell and perfect night.
Next day we where off by bus to the Villa San Michele of Axel Munthe fame who wrote the book The story of San Machele. It rivals the villa Rufolo in Ravello near Amalfi. Like there we decided to take the walking path down from the cliff top back to the harbour. I can tell you it is steep and there an uncountable number of steps to get back to the flat. We did not make it all the way down but took the funicular down the last part of the way.
By this time the wind was threatening so we decided to leave and sail north to Ishia to a bay on the NW where we had met some very pleasant young fellows on our trip i 2007. They introduced us to Buffilo Motsarello. Same bay no boys but a flat calm evening.
Next day off to Ponza as a step across the sea towards Sardinia. In Ponza we met up with Bondi Tram and again we spilled some wine and told some lies. We watched Australia being beaten in the football by Germany and so started and ended their tournament.
We left Ponza at dawn to sail west to Sardinia. An overnighter which ended in a strong wind and rain right in the route of a number of ferries. not a nice experience and a lesson to learn that when maneuvering in close quarters with ferried no mater what the weather do not loose sight of where they are. Too close for prudent sailing. We dropped anchor At Porto Rotundo along with many big yachts who must have just left a regatta at Port Cervo.