To Palermo, Sicily
16 September 2019
One of the features of cruising life for our generation is the massively increased life expectancy of our parents’ generation. We all know what it means.
So, with news that Norma’s 94 years old stepfather had been taken into hospital and was not in good shape and with guests arriving in Palermo on Wednesday 18th September we decided to press on.
We needed decent wifi for Phil to have an OCC conference call on Wednesday 11th September so we stopped in the marina at Vibo Valentia and then undertook an overnight passage to Palermo. The trip to VV was a motor, but we had 8-11kts NW wind on Thursday 12th September and sailed nicely close-hauled for over six hours, and then the wind eased away as we passed between Lipari and Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands – Stromboli was smoking and cloud-topped but no lava.
We arrived at Sitimar marina in Palermo at 0800 and Orlando, the Marineiro/manager was extremely helpful and got us berthed nicely.
So, Norma flew back on Sunday 15th for a funeral in Northern Ireland and will return next Saturday and our guests will arrive on Wednesday to be hosted by Phil … who is now starting to appreciate that Norma really is a domestic goddess … and she is now concerned that her favourite recipe file has been lodged in the engineering and technical section of our bookshelves …
16 September 2019
So, our mainland experiences had been fine and the decision was back to the mainland and away from the chic places – Sapri then.
A 75nm trip to the Gulf of Policastro on 31st August. We anchored tucked in behind the marina and close to a fuel jetty, so very good shelter. We bought petrol and diesel at the jetty so they let us tie up the dinghy there. We then had a coffee or a beer at their café each time we went ashore, to keep in their good books.
Sapri is what might be described as authentic, i.e. only Italians seem to visit. A couple of other boats came to anchor but no-one stayed more than two days – we stayed a week.
We took the train to Maratea just down the coast – a lovely harbour-side village that we visited in 1975 to stay with some university friends whose parents owned a villa there. Massive expansion and development have occurred but it retains its charm and we had a fabulous lunch.
We hired a car for a couple of days and visited Paestum, a 2500 years old Greek and Roman town with amazingly preserved temples and remains of the town.
The next day was a trip to the Pollino National Park in the southern Apennines which has picturesque hilltop villages (well, picturesque from afar but less so close up) and had a lovely walk through the beech forest to a fantastic look out at the Belvedere Malvento – at 1500 metres height we needed jackets … shocking.
On our last night we had to move anchorage as there was a religious celebration which involved fireworks off the beach and we were in the drop zone. We really enjoyed the laid back and hassle-free experience in this less-visited part of Italy … just don’t expect to find too many cafes open on a Sunday unless you are in a beach town.
More photos in the Gallery.
16 September 2019
The Pontine islands came highly recommended so we headed for Ponza – a short 42nm hop. Again, no wind. The thing was August … last two weeks … all of Italy on holiday … in the islands …
Our early afternoon arrival on Tuesday 27th August meant we could find a decent space in 7.2 metres in the bay just north of the town, and we thought all was good. Wrong, wrong, wrong – as the afternoon progressed the traffic increased exponentially until the sea in the bay resembled a washing machine as folks on jet skis zoomed about and day tripper boats ferried their sun-worshippers back to the town from beached further up the coast. Eventually things calmed down but we decided to move next morning to a potentially quieter bay on the west side of the island – Chaia di Luna. A lovely spot … until 0400 when lightning storms brought 15-20kts westerly wind into the bay … no sleep after that so at daylight we upped and left for Capri.
Ischia had been recommended by folks who were there in June and our cruising guide said no anchoring in July and August so we passed by (turns out Italians ignore such restriction) and went to the south coast of Capri and Marina Piccola – 68nm and again no wind.
So, what is the difference between Ponza and Capri? Not much. A very busy anchorage and nowhere to tie up the dinghy. There were lots of superyachts and the crew would ferry owners and guests ashore and then return later to collect them, presumably after sumptuous lunches … for some reason Norma did not see herself performing such crew-like duties … difficult to understand really …
16 September 2019
Friday 23rd August saw us off at the crack of dawn for the 87nm passage to Santa Marinella which we had identified as a good anchoring stop. The wind never got above 6kts so motored the whole way and dropped anchor off the beach and outside the marina in 7.5 metres.
We took the dinghy into the marina on Saturday and the staff were very friendly and showed us where to tie up. The town was a favourite of 1950s film stars such as Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman who worked at the renowned Cinecitta studios in nearby Rome, but of course today’s film stars own their own Caribbean islands …
A stroll, a superb ice cream and stops at a couple of cafes provided a gentle evening and the people were extremely friendly.
On Sunday 25th August we headed for Anzio/Nettuno for another decent anchorage, dropping in 3.5 metres off the beach which was full. Italians seem to fit into the tiniest of space to get their dosages of UV – there were literally thousands of them. On the next day we explored – one of the principal sites to visit is the US WWII cemetery, which has the graves of nearly 8000 US troops. It is a superbly designed and maintained memorial to their sacrifice.
Cruise Italy … well, some of it ... first to Elba
16 September 2019
We left the River Arno on Wednesday 14th August for Elba, passing the enormous fishing nets lowered into the river from enormous jibs, near the mouth of the river. We had been warned that we might have very serious growth on the hull after over a month in the river but we were remarkably clean apart from at the waterline – thank you Jotun Non-Stop antifouling.
The wind was kind and we actually sailed 40nm of the 66nm passage in 12-15kts WSW veering NW. With the forecast for wind to stay out of the north we headed for Golfo della Lacona and anchored in 9 metres with 35 metres of chain out. It was quite busy but there was plenty of anchoring room and a place to take the dinghy ashore.
The hills behind the bay provided a nice hike and gave us views over to Golfo della Stella and Porto Azzurro. The beach was very popular with Italian holidaymakers who don’t seem to have heard about the risks of skin exposure to strong UV light. Oh well …
n Sunday 18th August we moved 12nm to Porto Azzurro, arriving at 1120 and anchoring in 10 metres. This was good for us as the daily pattern turned out to be the anchorage empties by about 1030 as folk go off elsewhere for the day (mostly sunbathing) and return from 1700 onwards. Mostly folk are considerate in anchoring and if someone is too close, we just go on deck and start taking photographs and staring hard – it seems to work. We think our unpainted hull, deployed bowsprit, jerrycans of diesel on deck and our baggywrinkles makes folk wary of us …
Porto Azzurro has lots of bars and restaurants but importantly for us it had a reasonable bus service so we visited nearby cliff top village, Capoliveri – what a delightful place of higgledy-piggledy streets and alleys. We had a fine lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Next was a bus trip to Portoferraio which boasts Napoleon’s exile home – open to the public and had a superb exhibition which included a video presentation of his life using clips from the various films made about him, going back to the 1920s. As we told the Napoleon fan we met in Quebec, Canada – his weather forecasting was not up to much …
We really only have to visit Les Invalides in Paris where Napoleon is buried as we have now visited Corsica, his birthplace, Cape Trafalgar where Nelson trounced the French and Spanish fleets, Moscow and the scene of his weather forecasting failure, Elba for his first exile, Waterloo (brilliant museum) where he encountered his nemesis, and St Helena for his final exile and death. We have decided to pass on Egypt and Nelson’s other great victory at the Nile.
So, Elba was a triumph – we really had a very good time.
Photos in the Gallery.
A week in Tuscany
12 August 2019 | San Gimignano
After a really superb visit to the UK, seeing family and friends, hosting Greg and Carol and then Robin and Pauline in York, a weekend in London with Julia and Tim, visits to Beverley with Anna and Neil and a few days in NI, two trips to the pop-up Shakespeare Rose Theatre in York (‘Twelfth Night’ absolutely brilliant, ‘Henry V’ absolute disaster) we were ready for a rest …
We arrived back at Minnie B late on Saturday 3rd August and all was well. Sunday was provisioning and then a start on changing the engine exhaust elbow. It was much more straightforward than anticipated and the local Volvo engineer even gave us some engine paint for the replacement parts.
By Tuesday we were ready for some tourismo and took the bus into Pisa for the show – it was not as busy as expected but the crowds were determined to do the photos either as if holding up the tower or pushing it over. We passed on those and visited the Baptistry and the Cathedral, both of which are beautifully crafted and maintained. A stroll to the Piazza dei Cavallieri and an ice cream made for a pleasant afternoon.
Up for more, the following day we visited Lucca by train. Altogether a more interesting city than Pisa, but much less visited. Again the Cathedral is a must along with the Torre Guinigi which is surmounted by a few trees … and several hundred tourists. Thank goodness it does not lean. We had a good lunch in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and then a stroll around the walls and a beer in Piazza Napoleon before taking the train and bus back to the boat.
Next was a hire car for some serious provisioning, shopping for various cabin items and more tourismo. So Conad supermarket and Ikea did the trick in the morning and then off to San Gimignano in the afternoon, with plans to visit Siena the following day.
San Gimignano is probably at it best from a distance where you can see the hilltop, the vineyards, the poplar trees and the famous towers. Close up it was wall-to-wall stuff for tourists and wall-to-wall tourists – but hey, we are tourists too. We had a nice ice cream in the square outside the Cathedral and then drove back through quite delightful Tuscan countryside.
So to Siena. No not to Siena. Overnight our full-to-the-brim fridge/freezer stopped cooling. Oh well, urgent requirement for a refrigeration engineer, who arrived after a couple of hours and diagnosed a faulty controller. He came back late in the afternoon to install the new one so we had to hang around for him. Anyway all working, so we then went to the Carrefour for more wine and food.
The refrigeration engineer’s visit along with a very small sail repair that was done for us while we were away, put us in mind that Roman traditions are alive and well in modern Italy. Think Centurians ... the Romans were best at counting in 100s … sail repair = Eu100; refrigeration engineer = Eu100 (he installed our spare controller) and as we have stayed a few more days in the marina than planned also Eu100.
Now we are pretty much ready to go cruising again and the plan is to head for Elba and make our way gently south to northern Sicily for mid-September where we will pick up David and Jacquie for a few weeks (they think they are coming on a luxury cruise with full onboard drinks package but they will have to do a lot of stainless steel polishing, winch servicing and general cleaning, and the drinks package is a daily ration of grog: one teaspoon of rum and half a pint of water … to share).