Stuart Memorial at the Vatican
We enjoyed our stay in Fiumicino despite its expensive marina and the fact that it had no toilets (how do they get away with it)? The crew spent most of their spare time visiting the tourist sites of Rome and had a wonderful time. One interesting fact that we learned was that Bonnie Prince Charlie and this father The Old Pretender have a beautiful white marble monument consecrated in their memory inside the Basilica in the Vatican City.
But all too soon it was time for the crew to head for the airport, home and work.
For us it was back to the old routine of day sailing, this time down the West coast of Italy with a number of interesting places mapped out for special attention. The first of these was Anzio, famous for the Allied landings which took place here during the Second World War. The town was completely destroyed at this time and has been subsequently rebuilt.
The only memorial or sign we could find of what had taken place was this enlarged photograph of the Americans coming ashore. The Americans suffered heavy casualties and the American War Cemetery at Nettuno bears witness to this with the graves of 7400 Americans who fell here. Now the town is a bustling holiday resort and at weekends all of Rome seems to be here enjoying the lovely sandy beaches.
Anzio, this was the scene on the 22nd January 1944
We spent 7 days in Anzio on the Town Quay in the harbour. This was very convenient as the town and all its amenities were adjacent. We enjoyed strolling along the waterfront taking in the odd cafe or bar and had a memorable evening at an outdoor concert of traditional music.
On reaching the Italian mainland we had been in touch with Dennis and Sandra, friends of our friends back in Portugal. Dennis and Sandra were currently heading North from Sicily in their Heavenly Twins catamaran Sundowner II and when our paths converged we had agreed to meet up and spend some time together.
A British Sail Training ship in Gaeta Harbour the Cathedral is on the hill in the right of the picture.
This took place in Gaeta but not before we had rescued two young lads on a jet-ski drifting 5 miles from shore in an offshore wind (they had run out of petrol). We took them in tow and loaned them our handheld VHF radio thinking they would call someone at their base to come out and tow them in. Should have known better of someone on a jet-ski, he gets on the radio, Channel 16 and starts calling SOS and something in Italian, repeatedly as loud as he can. Well within minutes we had blue flashing lights coming from all sides and the last thing we wanted was to get caught up with the authorities, filling in forms, giving reports etc. Fortunately the first boat to reach us was from their club, so we quickly retrieved our radio, cast off our tow and got as much sea room as possible between them and us before the police and coastguard arrived. We arrived in Gaeta the following morning having spent the night anchored in a bay about 5 miles to the North, it was dark and we didn't want to enter a strange harbour at night. Our minds were also on the jet-skiers and what would have happened if we hadn't have spotted them?
Dennis and Sandra aboard Sundowner II
We met up with Dennis and Sandra not long after arrival, it was good to put faces to people we had been corresponding with for quite some time. Dennis and Sandra had wintered in Gaeta the previous year and so they knew the lie of the land and were able to tell us where to find everything. This was a great help for it usually takes us a few days and many hours of trudging round streets to find all the places/shops we need. Best of all they took us to a Pizzeria that is run by a local family, the pizzas are cooked in the traditional wood fired brick oven and boy do they taste good! Gaeta has an American Naval base although there were no boats in during the time we were there, but the town was geared for the influx of American Servicemen and therefore more user friendly to us Brits.
We spent 10 days in Gaeta and had to pull ourselves away before we started putting down roots, we had still a long way to go and places to see. Alba Voyager headed south in a flat calm to Baia at the north end of the Bay of Naples, we had been advised this was a safe place to leave the boat while we visited Naples and Pompeii.
Anchoring in the harbour at Baia, preferring this to the marina which had no protection from the wash of dozens of large motor boats which delighted in powering round the bay at great speed, we used the dinghy to get ashore leaving this at the town quay. There were good bus and train connections for our visits to Naples and Pompeii. Unfortunately Naples was a big disappointment, the saying goes "See Naples and die", well I'm afraid I would reword this to "You will die when you see Naples". It is without a doubt the dirtiest city we have visited and we found nothing of interest, in fact we couldn't leave quick enough
Part of Bay of Naples view from the sea
On the other hand Pompeii was a marvel and we could easily have spent a couple of days there as the site is extensive with a great deal to see and take in. The city was buried in 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and excavations only started in 1748. Today there is about a third of the city still to be excavated. We had also wanted to visit the Isle of Capri at the southern end of the bay as we sailed south but found that the island was very expensive (e.g. the marina cost would have been over 100 Euros per night) so we decided to give it a miss, which was a pity but we are on a budget.
Instead we headed for Agropoli where we spent 3 days wondering around the old town and doing very little which was in contrast to the last two weeks.
Once a Temple in the main square The main street in Pompeii
One of Pompeii's inhabitants who died in the disaster
Where we were going to winter was a question we still had to answer and as we were nearing the south of Italy we received a text message from Dennis and Sandra with details about a place called Sibari on the south coast of the Italian mainland. It had been our intention to look at two places on the east coast of Sicily that had been recommended by a friend from our home port. As Sibari was due east on the other side of Italy from were we were at present we decided to hire a car and go have a look. But hiring a car wasn't that easy. We were at this time in Camerota a large holiday resort for Italians and we could find only one car hire firm who quoted 60 euro per day and 50 cents per km, this would put the cost of a visit to Sibari at 300 euro, out of the question. The trip to Sibari would have to wait but we did hire the car for a day and toured the local area. Added now to the 'wants list' cheap car hire and here we fell lucky. At our next port of call, Cetraro we meet up with Brian and Ursula in their ex-Scottish fishing boat Day Dawn, our paths had already crossed in Camerota and they had sourced car hire at 70 euro per day unlimited mileage. We joined forces and had a day out to Sibari marina which turned out to be just what we were looking for. So the decision was made there and then, this is where we will winter. Day Dawn would also spend the winter here. On our return to Cetraro the weather deteriorated and we were forced to abandon the pontoon due to a large swell entering the harbour, we anchored in the main part of the harbour and were quite comfortable.
The Fouled Anchor
The strong winds lasted 3 days and on the morning when we were due to leave we had a problem, the anchor wasn't for coming up, we had a fouled anchor. We rigged a warp using a chain hook to the anchor chain and to one of the primary winches and with a combination of electric windlass and the winch managed to get the problem to the surface. Once we could see what the problem was it was easily fixed and we were on our way, all be it two hours later than we had intended.
Our next place of interest we wanted to visit was the volcanic island aptly named Isola di Volcano. Situated about 160 miles southwest of our present position and adjacent to Stromboli (the largest active volcano in the area). The journey was split into three by stopping at Vibo Velentia and Tropea on the mainland then crossing over to the island. This island has an active volcano and is home to bubbling mud pools and hot springs which attract large numbers of visitors who immerse themselves in the mud pools for its therapeutic effects. Anne said she would give it a miss this time! We spent 3 days here wondering around taking in the sites which were much like a lunar landscape interspersed with cafes and bars for the tourist. There was one unpleasant aspect to the harbour depending on which way the wind was blowing, the smell of rotting eggs caused by the sulphur gas escaping from the volcano, I suppose the locals get used to it.
Sulphur fumes being emitted from the volcano Come on in the mud is lovely
The next part of our journey was one of the few which had to be timed, the passage through the Straits of Messina where a tide runs at 5 knots (thought there were no tides in the Med?) We were heading for Reggio Calabria a large commercial and ferry port 15 miles south of the Straits and this meant an early start. The wind was southerly F5-6 which gave us a fast reach to just north of the Straits then it was a beat through the Straits and south to Reggio. The Straits are only one and a half miles wide at their narrowest point and with a 5 knot tide going south and a F5 coming the opposite way the sea was wild and we took a lot of water on the deck. To add to this it is a very busy area for commercial shipping and numerous ferries crossing to Messina in Sicily, we had our foul weather gear on, the first and only time this year. It was a happy skipper and crew that went alongside in the commercial dock in Reggio that night. Next morning we were having a well deserved long lie when I heard a noise in the cockpit, getting up to investigate I found a paper bag in the cockpit but no sign of anyone. Was it a terrorist bomb! No, on opening the bag we found 2 lovely chocolate croissants and a business card. Later on in the morning the owner of the business card introduced himself, an entrepreneurial taxi driver who specialised in helping yachties find what they needed in the town. He had been a merchant seaman in his younger days and understood the difficulties that sailors experience when visiting a new port, he could remember visiting Greenock and Glasgow and took great delight in telling us about his time there.
Unfortunately we couldn't put any business his way as we were leaving early next morning but we know some of the other yachts used his services and found him very helpful. We were now Cruising along Italy?s south coast and in the Ionian Sea, we were heading to Sibari (where we would winter) but not in any great hurry aiming to arrive some time early October.
The south coast of Italy was beautiful and we cruised along about a mile offshore admiring the sandy beaches and mountains in the background, definitely the best scenery we had seen in Italy so far. The weather also played its part as it was still warm and sunny during the day, although it was noticeable that the days were shortening and the nights a lot cooler.
Southern Italy viewed from the sea
We day sailed along the coast calling at Saline Joniche and Rocella Ionica (an excellent but unmaned marina where you can stay for 5 days without any charge) as you can imagine this is a very popular stop for any boats cruising this part of the coast. The marina has is own Pizzeria and for the first time we learned to buy pizza by the metre (smallest size, half a metre) the pizza is about 18 inches wide or 50cm if you haven't been brought up in the age of steam. Moving on from here we called into the marina at Le Castella and were surprised to be told at the office that the first night is free. This part of Italy was starting to hold great appeal, long may it continue. From here we would make one more stop before reaching Sibari and we had the choice of Crotone a large commercial port or Cariati of which the pilot book had very little information.
We decided on Cariati and were glad of this as on passing Crotone with its offshore gas platforms and petrochemical installations, it wasn't very inviting.
After over nighting in Cariati it was only about 25 miles to Sibari and I was determined to sail this last leg, however the wind gods had other ideas and offered only calm to F1 wind and in the end the engine had to go on again! (to Anne's delight).
We reached Sibari in mid afternoon and radioed for the pilot to come out and guide us in, the channel up to the marina has a dog-leg in it and is very shallow in parts with only 2.5 metres depth. We berthed safely and within minutes of arriving were invited to a Birthday Party being held in the Skippers Room (common room provided by the marina for live-aboards) which was great because we got to meet all the other cruisers who would be wintering here.
We will remain here until April 2007 when it is our aim to sail to Greece and cruise the islands there.
Looking at the marina entrance and the mountains behind
For all of you who have followed our log through 2006 thank you, we hope you have enjoyed it.
It only remains for us to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year when it comes.
Tom and Anne