Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Reunion time at Ponza ..... June 2010

24 - 28 June 2010

***The previous day there had been about 7 yachts and no tenders in here***Pizza in Ponza with Liam and Annie, Andrew and Clare***Ever wondered where to stow your dinghy for a change?? This yacht sailed in with it hanging up the mast - amazing!!!***The glorious sight of the 5 masted cruise ship leaving at dusk*** 

Once we cleared Ventotene we had a gentle downwind sail for 6 hours to cover the 24 miles to Ponza. The main harbour at Ponza shows a large no anchoring area to allow for the regular ferries from the Italian mainland to maneuvour, there were several yachts in there already and it didn't look like there was room for one more so we headed around the rocks just a short distance and anchored off a beautiful sandy beach in clear water with 7 other boats. It was Thursday night and we knew the weekend was likely to get busy so we were happy just to sit back and watch it all unfold. And unfold it did, Friday afternoon the Italian invasion began, superyachts, megayachts, mini cruise liners, a 5 masted yacht cruise liner, enormous motor cruisers, ribs of all sizes - one in particular was 60 feet long with 3 250hp outboards!!!, regular yachts, trailer sailers, runabouts, basically if it could float it seemed to have arrived in Ponza. The inner harbour area that we thought was full must have had close to 50 more boats in there, and our anchorage was overflowing, it was truly an amazing transformation.

Somehow everyone fitted in, there wasn't the chaos we had experienced in Croatia last year, all these boats were privately owned and no one wanted to hit anyone else, it just all worked, and everyone was considerate of each other - maybe Italy in the "busy season" might not be as bad as we anticipated. The Coastguard were keep busy trying to keep enough room clear for the ferries, but each time the ferry left it just all filled up again, until the next time!! We learnt that it was a long weekend, with Tuesday a holiday and Monday taken as an extra day off by many so maybe its not normally quite this crazy.

Along with the hundreds of Italians heading for Ponza there was one Australian catamaran. Our great friends Liam and Annie on Gone with the Wind were finally catching up with us after spending another winter in Turkey, we have been sailing with them on and off since Darwin in 2006, and spent many an anchorage in the Red Sea in their company, and a couple last year in Croatia. The farewells in this carefree cruising life we lead are way too regular, you meet wonderful people, spend time and priceless experiences together then part ways as we are often heading in different directions. But the reunions when they happen, well they are just the best. It was a big night with Blue Banana and Eye Candy also there, many a sundowner followed by many more moonuppers lasting well into the wee small hours!!!

The small town of Ponza was cute, not much there really but some small well presented shops, some busy restaurants and not much else really. Even though it was very busy it still had a real holiday feel to it, we squeezed our dinghies on the dock and all had a great pizza con vino evening out.

There looked to be some other spots around the island that would have been interesting but we had our anchoring spot and we weren't going anywhere until we left for Sardinia!! We had a good weather forecast to move across to Sardinia 155 miles west so in company withGWTW and Eye Candy we left busy Ponza to the locals and continued heading westwards. The wind failed to fill in until late in the afternoon, then it increased in early evening and built overnight and at one point we were cracking along at 8 knots in the full moonlight in flat seas with 23knots hard on the wind. Unfortunately the seas soon got lumpy due both to the wind and a shallow shelf we were going over so we buttoned off and put a reef in until daylight. The great thing about doing overnighters around the summer solstice is that its still light till around 10pm and then the skies start to lighten again at 4.30am, excellent. We had Olbia on the North East coast of Sardinia as our destination but couldn't quite lay it, so instead of tacking or motoring we just made landfall further down the coast at Porto Brandinghi - we thought we were going to Sardinia but we had arrived in paradise!

Cruising info for Ponza:-
Anchorages - Ponza 40 54.274N 12 57.907E 9m sand with weedy patches
Communications - Vodafone and TIM signal ok but we couldn't get WIND for dongle. Could get it further out in anchorage (better line around headland to aerial) and ashore so took laptop and dongle in and sat and had a coffee
Money - ATM on main waterfront ****Can't remember limit here but limit in Sardinia is only €250 per transaction, some machines worse at €200****
Provisions - Lots of minimarkets, fruit/veg shops, 3 butchers. Conad supermarket on waterfront round to right, through the tunnel and along a little. Also deli along there with best bread so far in Italy and yummy ricotta tarts
Formalities - Coastguard buzzed around but never stopped by

Friday, 25 June 2010

Island hopping in Italy ..... June 2010

22 - 24 June 2010

***Mama's home cooking, dining ashore with Peter and Bridget in Ischia***More fortresses - headland at Ischia***And another fort across the way at Procida at sunset***Get your do-up here!!! Waterfront Procida***

The low passed by and headed for Croatia so we moved on from Procida just a few miles to the island of Ischia. Squeezing in the tiny permitted anchoring area was not so easy but once settled the vista of the Castello on headland made the move worthwhile, ashore the island was green and lush and looked lovely. White Rose and Eye Candy had arrived before us and had gone ashore, only to come back a long time later having not been able to find anywhere they could leave their dinghies. White Rose had organised a water taxi so we got ready pronto and joined them for an evening shore excursion. Ischia is said to rival Capri for its natural beauty and it really was lovely, many trees, flowers, pedestrian areas and many Neopolitans looking seriously glamourous relaxing in all the cafes and bars. We found a cute little restaurant promising Mamas traditional cooking (Mama looked about 90!), the service, company, ambience and atmosphere could not be beaten, just a shame Mama had never learnt to cook!!

Early next morning we were awoken by two elderly fisherman, quite possibly Mama's husband and brother, through sign language it seemed they wanted us to move so they could lay their nets in the anchorage. Bleary eyed I explained as politely as possible in my non existant Italian that we were in the designated anchorage area and that we would be staying there, they looked at us in amazement and eventually rowed away - we went back to sleep!

Time to head ever westwards however the wind did not come out to play and we motored 26 miles in some rather lumpy seas out to the next island of Ventotene. Its a small island lying north/south and not providing great coverage, but there was no wind forecast so we found a spot in what we thought was sand amongst 17 other yachts, dropped and set the anchor. We jumped in for a swim, there was the most fish life we have seen in the med, the surrounding area is all marine park and what a difference it makes it was great to see life under water again. We also noticed we were on rock not sand, but hooked nicely to a big boulder and not likely to go anywhere. By dusk we were the only boat left at anchor, all the others had gone into the tiny Roman natural harbour which looked like it would only fit about 4 boats, conditions were pleasant albeit a little rolly so we stayed at anchor, and didn't even go ashore to the small village..

We awoke at dawn, bouncing up, down and sidewards in choppy seas. A 15knot breeze had filled in from the northeast, with a fetch on it all the way from the Italian mainland. We started lifting the anchor immediately, dreading the moment it would snag on the rocks. We should have had more positive thoughts as it came up without a problem, Italy continues to treat us well. We cleared the island, put the sails out, bore away and had a very pleasant downwind sail 24 miles ever westward to the next island of Ponza

Cruising Info for Ischia and Ventotene:-

Anchorages -
Castello d'Ishia (Southern Bay): 40 43.694N 13 57.760E 9.6m weed and sand, zoom chart right in to see the non anchoring area. We paid €2.50 each, each way for the water taxi. Other boats did manage to find places to leave dinghy but its not very easy
Ventotene: 40 49.756N 13 27.854E 9m sand, weed and rock. We couldn't tuck in any closer as it was all buoyed off for swimming areas. There were about 20 yachts in the Roman harbour, bit lively coming out into the nor'easter as its a tiny entrance. Good half way point to Ponza but wouldn't stop there again, maybe further down around the island a little would have been better.
Communications - No WIND signal for dongle in either, poor Vodafone and no TIM on phones Money - ATM's on Ischia
Provisions - Good supermarket on left side on main road in Ischia towards main town
Formalities - no, no,no

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Amalfi Coast to Procida ... June 2010

18-22 June 2010

***Capri looking somewhat gloomy and not so appealing so we passed it by*** The anchorage at Positano on a calm day with no swell***Positano from sea level with the housing clinging to the hillside***Procida's colourful waterfront*** 

Stocked up with Lemoncello, Creme Lemoncello and an abundance of free lemons, it was time to move westwards along theAmalfi Coast.
This time though we were at sea level looking up at the houses clinging to the cliff and could see the road tettering on the edge. Having done the bus trip this certainly felt like the safer option - not nearly as far to fall!! We had light winds again so motored along the coast passing Positano which looked as spectacular from the sea as it had from land. We left the mainland coastline and headed across to the island of Capri, known for all the rich and famous who holiday or own exclusive property there. We had heard on our cruisers net that a night in the marina was 800€ so we decided to give that a miss, we looked at anchoring but there wasn't much room and there were lots of tripper boats coming and going from the famous "Blue Grotto", plus it was Friday afternoon - it would only get busier.

The skies were clouding over, the weather was at last changing after our great run of clear skies and light winds, so we decided to save Capri for another time and head for an anchorage we could sit out the expected low that was coming our way. We put the sails up and headed north across the Bay of Naples to the offshore island of Procida. We were just one of 7 yachts in the Corricella Bay overnight on the southern side of Isola di Procida. Ashore looked like a movie set, a dominating stone fort sitting proud on top of the headland, higgledy-piggledy terraced houses falling over each other down the hillside in an array of pastel colours, the local fishing fleet tied up along the quiet harbourside and the scene completed with the church and belltower.

Saturday morning dawned clear and sunny, the low due through late in the evening. By late morning we estimate we had around 200 boats in the anchorage, most of them small power boats out for the day from Naples, picnicing, swimming, sunbathing, posing (well we are in Italy!!!!) and just generally having fun. By evening just 10 of us remained, amazing. The predicted wind and rain came through, it was the first clean rain we had had in months and it washed layer upon layer of Maltese dust out of the rigging and down the mast until at last Balvenie was clean again. Unfortunately the wind also kicked up quite a swell, life onboard got quite rolly from time to time, good excuse to spend more time ashore.

It was time for New Zealand to play Italy in the qualifing round of the Football World Cup, unfortunately the skies opened about 1/2 hour before kickoff so our arrival in the low key local bar was delayed. We just couldn't surpress our amazement when, on arrival, we discovered the All Whites were 1 goal up over Italy. We didn't make too many instant friends, but they were very tolerant of us and happily found us somewhere to sit in the packed out little cafe, their mood certainly improved when Italy scored, drawing the match. At the end they all wanted to know why New Zealanders were visiting their little island, and thought we had done very well sailing all that way. We got to be regulars there over our few nights at anchor, watching many a football game!

We had a good look around this little island, ashore it was pretty ramshackle nearly every house in desperate need of a 'do up' but its just got that feel of a functional lived in place with a laid back lifestyle, why stress about a new paint job!!!! Over the north of the island, all of 10 minutes walk, it was more orderly, there is a large new marina, tidy promenade and regular ferry services to Naples, quite a different feel to it completely.

Cruising Info for Procida:-
Anchorages - Corricella 40 45.322N 14 01.460E 9.5m sand and weed
Communications - WIND dongle ok, TIM and Vodafone on phone ok
Money - ATM's over in northern town
Provisions - small minimarket and bakery up hill by church, better provisions over in northern bay
Formalities - of course not!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Time out for a History Lesson at Pompeii ... June 2010

13-16 June 2010

***An array of items unearthed in the ruins, with a sad reminder of the many lives that were lost***Beautiful outdoor garden and coutyard area with a colourful fresco***More plaster cast shapes of the unlucky who did not manage to escape, notice again more coloured frescoes in the background***The guilty party - Mt Vesuvius overlooking the site of Pompeii*** 

As we made our final approach into the harbour at Agropoli we could tell it was late Sunday afternoon, every man and his boat were heading for the marina! We were tying up on the free town quay, just inside the harbour entrance. This was a stern-to wall, so we had to back in across the harbour entrance, dropping anchor, laying chain and fitting into the designated spot while run-abouts and launches whizzed around us at speed. Skipper, as always, kept his cool and without too much drama we attached ourselves to land once more.

Agropoli is another town off the tourist track, a low key pleasant place with a wide pedestrian main street, tiny walled old town perched high above the sea then topped with a fort commanding a view for miles up and down the coast. We had a three nights here, so took the opportunity to watch some more World Cup Football and take some time out for our next "ruins" excursion.

Although still some distance from Pompeiithere were reasonable train connections so we headed north towards the foothills of yet another steaming volcano, Vesuvius and to the ruins at Pompeii. We must be honest and say that we find it a little hard these days to get excited about ruins - we have seen many a ruin, in many a country - but all credit to Pompeii, we thought it was brilliant. Rated as Italy's most visited tourist attraction with over 2.5million visitors a year we were dreading the crowds but because the site is so huge (44 hectares excavated) it didn't appear busy at all.

Pompeii has a tragic history, first seriously damaged by earthquake in AD63, repairs and rebuilding were still in progress when in AD79 Vesuvius blew its top, killing around 2,000 inhabitants and burying the town almost intact under a layer of burning pumice stone. 

The site has been undergoing excavation since 1748, unfortunately several of the best finds have been removed to palaces and museums but the overall layout of the town, along with the streets, houses, baths, gardens, theatres and recreational areas are all in place and it is easy to imagine what it may have been like nearly 2000 years ago. There are complete storage urns, utensils, tools, well preserved wall frescoes, orchards, vineyards - just everything they needed for their life back then. It really was worth the visit and we spent a few hours slowly making our way through the streets and houses.

There is a huge covered area displaying all the implements, pots, urns etc that have been unearthed and there are several plaster body casts, made by pouring plaster into the hollows discovered left by disintegrated bodies. Sadly the horror that these people endured during their last minutes is evident.
We caught the train back to Salerno, then changed trains and arrived back in Agropoli just in time to join the locals in the main square, cooled off with a drink or two, nibbled on more pizza and watched another game of football, not a bad way to end a long day.

We managed to stay 3 nights on the 2 nights for free dock, we were doing well in Italy but didn't want to push our luck so with a forecast of 10 knots we left and set sail across the Golfo di Salerno the 25 miles to Amalfi

Cruising info for Agropoli:-
Town Quay:- come in around the breakwater and its right on the right hand side. Not where the green artifical grass is (charter company) but next to it. Room for about 4-5 yachts. Drop anchor and stern or bow tie to concrete wall. No one came around our first night so we weren't told till late the next day that we then had 2 nights free. The Marina berths are around 70E in June.
Communications:- TIM and Vodafone phones working, WIND dongle working
Provisions:- Walk all the way around the harbour and up the hill to the main pedestrian street. Good supermarket right at top straight ahead. Several fruit shops and a bakery nearby too.
Fuel:- Fuel dock in harbour but we jerry jugged, easy enough with trolley. 1.32E per litre
ATM:- A couple up on the main street
Formalities:- Still none in Italy
Sightseeing:- Allow around 35/40 minutes to get to train station and purchase tickets. We caught the 11.06 train, change at Salerno. Double check platform number in Salerno for Pompeii train, there are two separate platforms (a little further north and towards the sea but same station) that some of the Pompeii trains leave from. Instead of 15 minutes wait we had one hour and 15 minutes!!! Coming back there is 1753, 1805, 1908 ex Pompeii. About 10 minutes walk to ruins, head towards big clock tower looking monument opposite train station, then turn left to ruins. 
Trains - 9E each return (validate ticket on platform in machine before boarding) 
Entry to Pompeii - 11E each included very good guide book in English

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Aeolian Islands to Agropoli ... June 2010

09 - 15 June 2010

***Another beach, another party - we love Italy***A few puffs of smoke from Stromboli at dusk***How many times have we watched the sun set in the west at sea??***It doesn't actually look too rolly out there***

Three boats leaving the same anchorage, heading for roughly the same destination, well there aren't too many sailors, particularly ex-racers, that wouldn't automatically call that a race!!

We left the island of Lipari with White Rose and Eye Candy. We were all heading for somewhere on the Italian mainland, via the active volcano of Stromboli. The plan was to arrive at Stromboli after dark and potter around in circles and admire what is supposed to be the worlds oldest lighthouse as it blew its top at frequent intervals, with red hot rocks being thrown out and tumbling down the mountainside and sizzling into the water (at a safe distance from the boat!!) So off we set with a southeasterly forecast of around 15knots, should be a good overnight downwind sail. Balvenie in predictable style was the first to start sailing, the wind was only just filling in and of course it was coming straight from Stromboli, so while we sailed off in the wrong direction and tacked our way north we lodged a protest against the others motoring straight on!

As we were approaching Stromboli big puffs of smoke spurted out the top every 15 minutes or so. Dusk turned to absolute darkness, it was a new moon and, as a good friend would say, it was as black as the inside of a cow. We could barely make out the shadow of Stromboli as we arrived, neck and neck with White Rose, but where was Eye Candy? A quick radio checkin confirmed their position 8 miles northwest, further protests were lodged for them missing Stromboli up close and personal, and cutting corners! It was show time, there were spurts out of the top, all bright red for a couple of seconds, but at that point we were busy putting two reefs in the main, as we were getting bullets through from 6knots to 28knots and we couldn't see them coming, not a good thing with full sail up. All in all it was a huge disappointment, boats last year just couldn't pull themselves away from the brilliant display, but that was then and this is now. Never mind - been there, done that , but didn't get the photo!

With Eye Candy way out in front so therefore now disqualified by us, we headed north, and eventually made landfall at the small town ofScario. We had motored the last 6 hours as the wind had died completely however it had left a very very lumpy sea and finding a flat anchorage was impossible. We anchored off Scario and initially sat with our bow to the swell which wasn't too bad, but then we went beam on, gunnel to gunnel, this was no fun at all. Eventually we decided to go into the small harbour and tie up for the night, we wanted to enjoy Italy and if it meant paying for harbours, well we would just have to do it. As it happens our arrival went unnoticed, we slipped in, tied up had a stroll ashore, a lovely dinner out with White Rose (who were still out at anchor but with a stern anchor also so making things a little more bearable). There was no harbourmaster or office to pay so next morning we let the lines go and slipped out just as quietly as we slipped in. Maybe tying up in Italy wouldn't be so expensive after all!!

We motored north, no wind but still in some rolly seas, around a couple of headlands, flattening out a little after each one, then we tucked right in the northern side of Cape Palinuro, an almost empty anchorage, clear water and most importantly - no roll. Palinuro town was quite an amiable sort of place, with hardly a mention in the Lonely Planet it was well off the international tourists radar, it had a beachside holiday feel to it. An enjoyable stopover to relax, watch the beginning of the Football World Cup and hunt down another WIND shop. Yes, you have guessed it, the trusty dongle which hadn't worked in Vulcano due to no signal, but then also didn't work in either Scario or Palinuro where there was a signal. You may think we are obsessed now with the internet but really we are not. However it is like anything, when you can have it and you have paid good money for it then you want it to work!! We found an excellent assistant who spoke English and after parting with more money were back in working order.

We got back up to date with boat jobs, watched some football, did some swimming then ran out of excuses to stay in this great calm spot. We headed 30 miles further north, the seas a little rolly but there was enough breeze to allow a pleasant sail on this sunny sunday afternoon to Agropoli.

Cruising Info for Scario and Cape Palinuro:-

Scario at anchor .. 40 03.26N 15 29.92E outside harbour, 8m mud ,would be great with no roll
Scario Harbour .. We tied right at the beginning on the left, laid mooring lines, nudged bottom getting into berth (so around 2.3m) fine once in. Water and power did not work where we were but did further into harbour. Boats a few days behind us went in and paid 35Euro per night inc p/w 
Cape Palinuro North .. 40 01.957N 15 16.723E 12.5m, sand. Much better protection than it looks
Communications:- Signal for WIND, Vodafone and TIM
Provisions:- Small deli type store at Scario on waterfront. Palinuro had small supermarkets and everything you need
Money:- Scario didn't notice ATM. Palinuro in main street but maximum 200Euro
Formalities:- still none in Italy